Every year in February, the Oberlin community comes together to study the history, politics, and economics of black people in America, acknowledge their central role in shaping our nation, and celebrate their achievements. Known as Black History Month, Oberlin has traditionally recognized this time with panels, lectures, readings, symposia, and artistic displays and performances. This tradition continues with a new identity: Africana Unity and Celebration Month. In addition to acknowledging the historical legacies and contemporary contributions of African Americans, Africana Unity and Celebration Month is inclusive of queer, trans, and femme-identifying people, as well as Africana groups throughout the diaspora and those with intersectional identities.
Read on to learn about a few featured events of this year’s Africana Unity and Celebration Month. A complete listing of events can be seen on the Events Calendar, and more information about the monthlong celebration can be found on this webpage.
Saturday, February 6, 6:30 p.m.
Harriet Tubman: When I Crossed That Line to Freedom is a new two-act theatrical work by Nkieru Okoye that tells of how a young girl born in slavery becomes Harriet Tubman, the legendary Underground Railroad conductor. Based on recent Tubman biographies, the story is narrated and told in the context of Tubman’s tight-knit family of lively characters. Harriet Tubman carries the universal themes of sisterhood, courage, sacrifice, and doing what is necessary to keep a family together.
This touring co-production with the Oberlin Opera Theater is part of the Cleveland Opera Theater New Opera Initiative and is the Midwest premiere of the opera. The performance is sponsored by the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, the Africana Studies Department, the Office of the President, the Multicultural Resource Center, and Christ Episcopal Church of Oberlin.
Friday, February 19, noon
”Transpacific AntiRacism” is a lecture by Yuichiro Onishi, associate professor of African American and African studies and Asian American studies at the University of Minnesota, and author of the recent publication Transpacific Antiracism: Afro-Asian Solidarity in 20th Century Black America, Japan and Okinawa (New York University Press in 2013).
Saturday, February 20, 8 p.m.
Folk singers, protest singers, and singer-songwriters have been symbols of American resilience for generations. But while the voices most closely associated with such movements tend to be white, a strong history of protest, subversion, and cultural resistance from musicians of color abounds throughout America’s history.
Led by Rhiannon Giddens ’00, founding member of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, “Swimming in Dark Waters: Other Voices of the American Experience” explores old and new songs of resistance of the South, protest songs from Leyla McCalla’s Haiti and Louisiana, and the experiences of first-generation American Bhi Bhiman, an “outsider looking in” on issues of culture and race in 21st-century America.
A limited number of free tickets (up to 2 per person) for this event will be available starting at noon on Friday, February 5. See the Events Calendar for more information on ticketing.
Friday, February 26, 4:30 p.m.
Saturday, February 27, all day
Most Events in King 106, Selected Events in Mudd Learning Center
Occurring at the intersection of Black History Month and Women’s History Month, the Complicated Relationships: Mary Church Terrell’s Legacy for 21st Century Activists symposium celebrates the life of Mary Church Terrell, Class of 1884, and the significant gift of the Mary Church Terrell papers to the Oberlin College Archives. The symposium is also an opportunity to think together about social justice today.
Terrell was a feminist and civil rights activist and a founding member of the National Association of Colored Women (NACW) and NAACP, who worked tirelessly across lines of race and gender to achieve a more just and equitable society. Symposium participants include Terrell descendants Ray and Jean Langston; keynote speaker Johnnetta Cole ’57; prominent Oberlin College Alumnae Lillie Edwards ’75, Treva Lindsey ’04, Rachel Seidman ’88, Jennifer Morgan ’86, and Lori Ginzberg ’78; and current Oberlin students.
The symposium is cosponsored by the the Gender, Sexuality and Feminist Studies Institute; the Africana Studies Department; the Oberlin College Archives; the Oberlin Alumni Association of African Ancestry (OA4); and the Office of Alumni Relations. Support comes from the Comparative American Studies Program, the History Department, Oberlin College Libraries, the Dean of Students Office, the Dean of Arts and Sciences, and the Office of the President.
Thursday, March 3
Dye Lecture Hall, Science Center
“Fighting Apartheid Since 1948: Key Moments in Palestinian and Black Solidarity” is a lecture by Robin D.G. Kelley, distinguished professor of history and Gary B. Nash endowed chair in United States history at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). The lecture will explore how the Palestinian and black communities have common interests and challenges and their methods for addressing them. See the UCLA website for information about Kelley’s research interests and selected publications.