A bucket list for Black History Month

By Diane Brown, IU Communications Specialist

If you’re looking for something special to do in observance of Black History Month, you might want to put attending the IUPUI Steward Speakers Series Feb. 22 event on your 2016 bucket list.

The evening includes dinner and a lecture featuring Grammy-winning hip-hop artist and actor Common.

Tickets go on sale Feb. 15 at the IUPUI Jagtag office and are also available online .

In 2015 Common and John Legend took home an Oscar and a Golden Globe for Best Original Song for their collaboration on  “Glory,” the powerful anthem of the civil rights film “Selma.”

Common

Common

The recently televised NAACP Image Awards featured a soul-stirring rendition of “Glory” by Alice Smith  as part of a tribute to Legend, recipient of the organization’s 2016 Presidential Award.

This year’s theme for Black History Month, set by the Association for the Study of African American History and Life, is “Hallowed Grounds: Sites of African American Memories.”

For 90 years, the Association for the Study of African American History, founded by Carter G. Woodson, has been at the forefront for advancing awareness of the contributions of people of African descent to the fabric of American life.

“You can’t tell the story of America without preserving and reflecting on the places were African Americans have made history,” said the statement about this year’s theme.

And few places are more hallowed in African American history than the Edmund Pettus Bridge, the flashpoint of the civil rights marches featured in “Selma.”

In the movie, Common plays the role of civil rights movement strategist James Bevel, a role he’ll no doubt discuss in his Indianapolis talk.

After Common, the 2015-16 Steward Speakers season will conclude with lectures by attorney Star Jones on March 7 at the IUPUI Campus Center and public intellectual Cornel West on April 8 at Ivy Tech Community College.

For the past three years, IUPUI has been the lead or title sponsor for the series, which promotes personal engagement with successful prominent leaders in order to “begin to pave a way for [Indianapolis] community members of all backgrounds to envision the possibilities of attaining their personal goals.”

In its 30 seasons, the series has hosted more than 100 notables, including many who would be on a black history Who’s Who roll call — General Colin Powell, Dr. Ben Carson, Tavis Smiley and Viola Davis, to name a few.

Woodson and the Association for the Study of African American History were the founders of Negro History Week, which grew into today’s observance of February as African American or Black History Month.

The intent was not to elevate the achievements of African Americans over that of other groups, nor to exclude recognition of others, but to right the wrongs of African American contributions being either totally ignored or ignorantly misrepresented.

Just as the establishment of Black History Month was not meant to exclude the recognition of others, it also was not meant to limit black history lessons to one month or one week of the year.

In fact, this year’s theme was set to tie in with the national celebration of the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service system. The National Park Service system acknowledges black history every day of the year at sites across the country, such as the Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument in Wilberforce, Ohio, and the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park, both easy day trips from Indy.

One of my favorite black history spots is the Levi Coffin House in Foundation City, Ind.

Home to Levi Coffin, the “president” of the Underground Railroad, and his wife, Catharine, the Coffin House — called Grand Central Station of the Underground Railroad — was a safe haven for hundreds of escaped slaves making their way to freedom in Canada.

While it is not in the National Park Service system, the Coffin House is a National Historic Landmark. Open to visitors June 1 to August 31, it is listed among the top 45 history sites in the nation.

And as part of Indiana’s bicentennial, the building next door to the Coffin House will open in December as the Levi Coffin House Interpretive Center, which the folks at the Smithsonian have named as one of 12 new museums in the world to visit this year.

A trip to the new center will be an easy thing to add to your bucket list.

 

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