U.Va.'s Observance of Black History Month to Focus on Film, Arts

Listen to the UVA Today Radio Show report on this story by Anne Bromley:

January 22, 2010 — African-American educator Carter G. Woodson, the founder of what was then Black History Week, said, "Truth must be dug up from the past and presented to the circle of scholastics in scientific form and then through stories and dramatizations that will permeate our educational system."

This year's observation of Black History Month at the University of Virginia includes films and performances that use historical sources and characters. The activities highlight local topics as well as national concerns and international connections.

"The Office of African-American Affairs chose the theme 'Blacks in the Cinema: Images, Thoughts, Perceptions' to organize programs that challenge misconceptions of African-Americans and highlight African-American achievement," said Dion Lewis, director of the Luther P. Jackson Black Cultural Center. "Artistic works such as dramatic performances, feature films and documentaries play a major role in shaping perceptions in the minds of Americans."

"Who was the first black student to live on the Lawn?" That could very well be a question at the Black History Bowl, a Jeopardy-style program on Feb. 12 from 5-7 p.m. in Newcomb Hall Ballroom where students will test their knowledge of black history in Virginia and beyond.

Spoiler alert: on Feb. 9, that first black Lawn resident, A. Leroy "Roy" Willis, will be at the Colonnade Club near his former Lawn room, 43 West, as a memorial plaque is installed describing his achievement. Later that evening at 7 p.m., African-American alumni will meet with black students at U.Va. to discuss the contributions they made and can make to University life.

Two events are co-sponsored with the University Programs Council and the University Arts Board. The Rennie Harris Puremovement Dance Company will present a history of hip-hop through lecture and demonstration on Jan. 29 at 8 p.m. at the Helms Theater. On Jan. 31, actor and writer Daniel Beaty will perform "Emergency!" in a one-man show where he plays more than 40 characters.

The U.Va. student drama group, the Paul Robeson Players, will perform scenes from several plays on Feb. 4 at 7 p.m. in the auditorium of the Harrison/Small Special Collections Library.

Following the screening of the short film, "The Negro Zone," director Atif Lanier will conduct an interactive workshop confronting stereotypes of black men. That activity will take place on Feb. 16 at 7 p.m. in Newcomb Hall Commonwealth Room.

The film series includes films in four categories: civil rights, contemporary, black exploitation and a Spike Lee movie marathon. See the full schedule below.

Office of African-American Affairs' 2010 Black History Month Calendar

• Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration: "Greensboro: Closer to the Truth"
Jan. 25, 4 p.m., auditorium of the Harrison Institute/Small Special Collections Library
The University will celebrate King's legacy through a viewing of "Greensboro: Closer to the Truth," a documentary on the reconciliation in Greensboro, N.C. The film will be followed by a panel discussion. Panelists include Holly Edwards, Charlottesville city council member; H. Tim Lovelace, doctoral student and assistant director of the Center for the Study of Race and Law; and Adam Zucker, filmmaker.

• "History of Hip-Hop" Lecture/Demonstration
Rennie Harris Puremovement Dance Company
Jan. 29, 8 p.m., Helms Theater
Moderated by senior members of the company, this lecture introduces audiences to personalities who influenced or invented various techniques or styles that have contributed to the hip-hop dance culture. More importantly, this lecture/demonstration illustrates how hip-hop has its roots in African tradition and culture throughout the diaspora – including African-American, Afro-Brazilian, Afro-Cuban and Puerto Rican cultures from the early '60s throughout today. Rennie Harris and his company have won international acclaim as forerunners in promoting hip-hop.
(Sponsors: University Programs Council, University Arts Board)

• Performance: "Emergency!"
Daniel Beaty, spoken word artist, writer, actor
Jan. 31, 8 p.m., Old Cabell Hall
The year is 2008. A slave ship emergences in front of the Statue of Liberty, sending New York into a whirlwind of emotion and exploration in this explosive solo tour de force featuring slam poetry, multi-character transformation and song. Through this performance, Beaty will play more than 40 characters, all exploring what it is to be human and the longing to be free. Beaty has won numerous accolades, including an Obie Award for his off-Broadway performance in "Emergency!"
(Sponsors: University Programs Council, University Arts Board)

• "Our Voices, Our Images, Our Time: Paul Robeson Players as Black Playwrights"
University of Virginia Paul Robeson Players
Feb. 4, 7 p.m., auditorium of the Harrison Institute/Small Special Collections Library
U.Va.'s Paul Robeson Players will pay homage to blacks in the fine arts with hopes of uplifting a new generation of actors. Scenes from the following stage plays will be performed: "A Raisin in the Sun" (1959), by Lorraine Hansberry; "River Niger" (1972), by Joseph A Walker; "For Colored Girls who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf" (1975), by Ntozake Shange; "Fences" (1983), by August Wilson.
(Sponsors: Office of African-American Affairs, University Library, Paul Robeson Players)

• Roy Willis Lawn Room Dedication
Feb. 9, 2 p.m., Pavilion VII, Colonnade Club
The Office of the President has approved the installation of a plaque at 43 West Lawn to memorialize A. Leroy (Roy) Willis, a 1962 graduate of the College of Arts & Sciences, becoming the first African-American student to live on the Lawn. Willis, students, faculty and alumni will gather to celebrate the occasion.
(Sponsors: Office of University Development, Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs, Office of African-American Affairs)

• "Celebrating Black Power at U.Va."
Feb. 9, 7 p.m., Newcomb Hall Ballroom
African-American alumni will discuss challenges and the triumphs of black students at the University. This program's aim is to create dialogue about black students' contributions which have added to the success of the University.
(Sponsor: Black Student Alliance)

• Black History Bowl
Feb. 12, 5-7 p.m., Minor Hall 125
This program will unite University students in a "Jeopardy!"-style game with facts relating to black history in both Virginia and the world.
(Sponsor: Black Student Alliance)

• "The Negro Zone: A Stereotype Workshop"
With director Atif Lanier
Feb. 16, 7 p.m. Newcomb Hall, Commonwealth Room
"The Negro Zone" is a hilarious short film confronting the stereotypes perpetrated on the black man. Following the viewing of the film, the director will conduct an interactive workshop to discuss images and ideologies surrounding misconceptions of black men in America.
(Sponsor: Office of African-American Affairs)

• Black Voices' Winter Benefit Concert
Feb. 20, 5:30 p.m., University Baptist Church
The University's gospel choir will host a benefit concert to support a Charlottesville community charity. Admission is $4.

• "Portraits in Color: Black History at U.Va."
Step It Up
Feb. 21; doors open at 6 p.m., show starts at 7 p.m.; Newcomb Ballroom
From politics to entertainment, blacks have made tremendous contributions to the world. Come see various groups from within and outside of the University as they recognize these accomplishments.

• Seminar: Keeping it Rich with Sakina
Feb. 22, 7 p.m., Newcomb Hall, Kaleidoscope
This seminar is designed to motivate, encourage and educate college students to have a financially lucrative life while still keeping it real. Learn how to pay down student loan debt, build credit, invest in the stock market and still have money left over to buy the car of your dreams. This presentation maintains a lively interactive discussion about money and the steps you must take to make it grow. Sakina Spruell is a personal finance journalist who contributes to a variety of publications, including Money, Fortune, Small Business, Essence and Black Enterprise magazines. Spruell was also the founding editor for Black Enterprise's Teenpreneur, a quarterly magazine targeted at teen-age entrepreneurs.
(Sponsors: Office of African-American Affairs, Get on the Street, Money Lit)

• Seminar: "The Reel World of Medicine"
Feb. 23, 6 p.m., Jordan Hall Auditorium
This program will open with brief clips from "The Cosby Show," "RN," "ER" and other media that portray the lives of black physicians and nurses. Then real doctors, residents and nurses from U.Va. will share their stories and how these portrayals may have influenced their dreams about the medical profession.
(Sponsors: Office of African-American Affairs, School of Medicine, Office of Diversity and Equity, Daniel Hale Williams Premedical Societ and the Student National Medical Association)

• Black History Month Closing Ceremony and Third Annual Image Awards
Feb. 24, 7 p.m., Newcomb Hall Ballroom
Students, faculty and staff of the will be honored for their commitment and service to U.Va.'s black community.
(Sponsors: Black Student Alliance, Black Leadership Institute, U.Va. Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, University Dining)

REPRESENTATIONS IN BLACK: A FILM SERIES

Feb. 2: Civil Rights

• "Mississippi Burning" (2001)
Noon, Newcomb Hall, Kaleidoscope
Set in the mid-1960s in the heart of the Civil Rights Movement, the film begins with three civil rights activists (two white and one black) traveling at night down a backcountry road, where they encounter members of the Ku Klux Klan. The Klansmen kill the activists without a provocation on the part of the activists. Two FBI agents are assigned to the case with different ideas on how to solve it.

• "Ghosts of Mississippi" (1997)
7 p.m., Newcomb Hall, Kaleidoscope
Medger Evers was a black civil rights activist in Mississippi who was shot to death in 1963. Despite persuasive evidence that Byron De La Beckwith was indeed his killer, two all-white juries hearing his case acquitted him. In this film, with the aid of Evers' widow, Myrlie, Bobby DeLaughter, a young lawyer, gathers enough new evidence to bring Beckwith in for a third trial.

Feb. 11: Contemporary

• "A Raisin in the Sun" (2008)
Noon, Newcomb Hall, Kaleidoscope
In this television movie remake of Lorraine Hansberry's play, a $10,000 insurance benefit creates conflicting dreams within a Chicago ghetto family. Son Walter Lee wants to start his own business, while his mom wishes to spend her days in a little house of her own. A family caught between the reality of their surroundings and a chance at a piece of the American dream.

• "Antwone Fisher" (2002)
7 p.m., Newcomb Hall, Kaleidoscope
Directed by Denzel Washington. Guided by a determined Navy psychiatrist, a troubled sailor embarks on a personal, emotionally inspiring journey to confront his past and connect with the family he never knew. Inspired by the true-life experiences of Antwone Fisher.

Feb. 17: Black Exploitation

• "Cleopatra Jones" (1973)
Noon, Newcomb Hall, Kaleidoscope
Directed by Jack Starrett. A beautiful, tough drug enforcement agent intercedes when a menacing drug ring attempts to stage a retaliatory raid on a Los Angeles drug rehabilitation center.

• "Cotton Comes to Harlem" (1970)
7 p.m., Newcomb Hall, Kaleidoscope
Directed by Ossie Davis and based on Chester Himes' novel of the same name. The plot revolves around the efforts of the two Harlem detectives to recover $87,000 of poor black families' life savings, which have been stolen in a "back to Africa" swindle; the money is concealed in a bale of cotton, which keeps changing hands.

Feb. 22: Spike Lee Movie Marathon

• "Do the Right Thing" (1989)
2 p.m., Newcomb Hall, Kaleidoscope
This powerful visual feast combines humor and drama with memorable characters while tracing the course of a single day in the black ghetto of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. It's the hottest day of the year, a scorching 24-hour period that will change the lives of its residents forever.

• "School Daze" (1996)
4 p.m., Newcomb Hall, Kaleidoscope
This music-filled, off-beat contemporary comedy takes an unforgettable look at black college life. Dap and Big Brother Almighty conflict over the Greek frat system while the Wanna-bes and Jigaboos conflict over self-identity and self-esteem.

• "Miracle at St. Anna" (2008)
6 p.m., Newcomb Hall, Kaleidoscope
"Miracle at St. Anna" follows four black soldiers of the all-black 92nd Infantry Division who get trapped near a small Tuscan village on the Gothic Line during the Italian campaign of World War II after one of them risks his life to save an Italian boy. The story is inspired by the August 1944 Sant'Anna di Stazzema massacre perpetrated by the Waffen-SS in retaliation to Italian partisan activity.

— By Anne Bromley