By Terrence Wilson, J.D.• Knowledge is Power • February 24, 2023 •
When I think about Black History Month when I was growing up, my mind does not go to books that I read or lessons that I learned in school. My mind goes to the vibrant music, art, song and dance that characterized the Black history activities that I participated in throughout my childhood and adolescent years.
I remember the poster painted by a Black artist that I begged my parents to buy me when we were walking through the annual 2nd street (or 2 street for those who knew) festival in my hometown of Richmond, Virginia. I remember seeing the art depicting everything from nature to fashion, all painted, drawn and sculpted by Black artists. That poster was a constant reminder that art has the ability to resonate and inspire without having to make a sound.
But I remember plenty of sounds too. I remember the sounds of attending my first musical, Bubbling Brown Sugar, a Tony-nominated musical by Black playwright Loften Mitchell. In the musical, the characters were transported back to 1920s Harlem and experienced the coolest culture that my young eyes had ever seen.
I remember the sounds of the saxophone played at our local jazz festival. I was so impressed with those musicians that I learned to play myself. I remember seeing Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater perform Revelations with majority Black ensembles and being amazed at the grace these dancers displayed and the depth of experience that they could express through their movements. I am even more amazed at these works given the time that Alvin Ailey created them in the 1950s.
Reminiscing on these childhood experiences reminds me that Black History Month is so much more than Black history facts in a book. Black history is happening every day, and we can experience it through the sounds, sights and movements of Black musicians, artists, dancers and creative of all types all over the world.
[©2023, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the February 24, 2023, edition of Knowledge is Power by the Intercultural Development Research Association. Permission to reproduce this article is granted provided the article is reprinted in its entirety and proper credit is given to IDRA and the author.]