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Today in Black History, 11/21/2011

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·   November 20, 1695 Zumbi, also known as Zumbi dos Palmares, leader of the Quilombo dos Palmares in Brazil was captured and beheaded by the Portuguese. Zumbi was born free in Palmares in 1655, but was captured by the Portuguese when he was six years old. Despite efforts to pacify him, Zumbi escaped when he was 15 and returned to his birthplace. He became known for his physical prowess and cunning in battle and was a respected military strategist by the time he was in his early twenties. In 1678, Zumbi became the leader of Palmares and for the next seventeen years led the fight for the independence of Palmares, a self-sustaining republic of Maroons who had escaped from the Portuguese settlements in Brazil. Today, Zambi is honored as a hero, freedom fighter, and symbol of freedom in Brazil and a bust of Zumbi sits in Brasilia, the capital of Brazil, with a plaque that reads “Zumbi dos Palmares, the leader of all races.” Also November 20 is celebrated as a day of black consciousness in Brazil. Zambi dos Palmares International Airport in Macelo, Brazil is named in his honor.

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Today in Black History, 11/14/2011

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·   November 14, 1856 John Edward Bush, co-founder of the Mosaic Templars of America (MTA), was born enslaved in Moscow, Tennessee. Bush and his family were freed after the Civil War and moved to Little Rock, Arkansas. Bush graduated with honors from Capitol Hill City School in 1876 and served as its principal for two years immediately following graduation. In 1883, he co-founded MTA, an African American fraternal organization which by 1930 had grown to international scope, spanning 26 states and 6 foreign countries. It was one of the largest and most successful black-owned business enterprises in the world and Bush was acknowledged as one of the wealthiest black men in Arkansas. In 1898, President William McKinley appointed Bush the receiver of the United States Land Office in Little Rock and he was subsequently reappointed four additional terms by Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft. Bush died December 11, 1916.

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Today in Black History, 11/10/2011

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·   November 10, 1891 Granville T. Woods was awarded patent number 463,020 for his invention of the Electric Railway System. Woods was born April 23, 1856 in Columbus, Ohio and dedicated his life to developing a variety of improvements related to the railroad industry and controlling the flow of electricity. In 1884, he and his brother formed the Woods Railway Telegraph Company to manufacture and sell telephone and telegraph equipment. In 1885, he patented an apparatus which was a combination of a telephone and telegraph which allowed a telegraph station to send voice and telegraph messages over a single wire. In 1887, he patented the Synchronous Multiplex Railway Telegraph which allowed communications between stations from moving trains and in 1889 he patented an improvement to the steam-boiler furnace. In addition to these, Woods received more than 50 other patents and was known to many people of his time as “the Black Thomas Edison.” Despite these inventions, Woods died virtually penniless on January 30, 1910. The Granville T. Woods Math and Science Community Academy in Chicago, Illinois is named in his honor.

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Today in Black History, 9/8/2011

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·   September 8, 1882 Sarah Mapps Douglass, abolitionist, teacher, and lecturer, died. Douglass was born September 9, 1806 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Her family was prosperous and among several free black families who formed the core of Philadelphia’s abolitionist movement. Douglass was educated at home by private tutors. Around 1877, Douglass established a school for black children. In 1837, she served on the ten member committee for the Antislavery Convention of American Women. This was the first national convention of antislavery women to integrate black and white members. Douglass also served as librarian, corresponding secretary, and on the board of directors of the Philadelphia Female Antislavery Society. In 1853, she took over the girl’s preparatory department at the Philadelphia Institute for Colored Youth, offering courses in literature, science, and anatomy. She served at the institute until 1877. During this time, she also acquired basic medical training at the Female Medical College of Pennsylvania and at Pennsylvania Medical University. After the Civil War, Douglass became a leader in the Pennsylvania branch of the American Freedman’s Aid Commission which worked to provide services to the formerly enslaved in the south.

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Today in Black History, 8/6/2011

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·   August 6, 1848 Susan Baker King Taylor, educator and humanitarian, was born enslaved in Liberty County, Georgia. As a young girl, Taylor was secretly taught to read and write by black women. In 1862, during the Civil War, Taylor’s family moved to Union-controlled St. Simons Island where, at the age of 14, she organized a school for the children on the island. This made her the first black teacher to openly instruct African American children in Georgia. In 1866, her family returned to Savannah where she established a school for freed black children. In the early 1870s, Taylor moved to Boston where she joined and became president of the Women’s Relief Corps which gave assistance to soldiers and hospitals. In 1902, Taylor published her memoirs, “Reminiscences of My Life in Camp: An African American Woman’s Civil War Memoir.” Taylor died in 1912.

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Only When I Dance: A Review

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July 20th marked the showing of the movie “Only When I Dance” at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History. The movie was followed by a discussion led by Debra White Hunt, the artistic director at the Detroit Windsor Dance Academy. Chelsea Talifer, an intern at The Wright, provides this review of the film.

       When I think about the movie “Only When I Dance” I think about a movie that has a powerful title, and a powerful story. This movie focuses on two bright, young, passionate ballet dancers (Irlan & Isabela) from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil who have hopes to make it big. “Only When I Dance” shows how dancing transformed, and changed Irlan and Isobela’s lives. Ballet wasn't just a hobby to them, it was their life. Dancing took them out of their environment of poverty, and provided them with a vision of a different future. Irlan showed great focus and determination when it came to dance. He disconnected himself from his peers to avoid becoming distracted from his goals of dancing and providing a better life for his mother and father. Isobela had the same goal and determination, but she struggled to achieve them because of her dark skin complexion and body type. Successful ballerinas are usually Caucasian, thin and they come from affluent backgrounds. Dance companies like the Dance Theatre of Harlem provides the opportunity for young dancers like Isobela to succeed, and achieve their dreams.

        It’s unfortunate that many people have not seen or heard about this movie. To see Irlan and Isobela overcome the tremendous obstacles set before them, and the great sacrifices they make, is inspiring. Many people in America take for granted all the opportunities that we have, and for some this movie could be a reality check. To watch two young people living in poverty working so hard to accomplish something that would seem almost impossible to others is truly breathtaking.

 

Only When I Dance DVD cover art

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As part of its programming for Black History Month, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History hosts two separate poetry performances that honor the great literary traditions of African American writers.  Both events will take place at the museum, located at 315 East Warren Avenue in Detroit’s Midtown, and are made possible by the generous support of PNC Bank.

“PNC demonstrates its commitment to diversity through a wide variety of initiatives and programs, including serving as presenting sponsor for these important performances,” said PNC Regional President for Southeast Michigan Ric DeVore.  “This program offers a rare opportunity to celebrate the genius of contemporary and legendary African-American poets.”

On Valentine’s Day, Monday February 14 at 7:30 pm, Love and Revolution - a Celebration of the Culture and People We Adore features a duet performance by Ras Baraka and jessica Care moore.  The son of revered poet-activists Amina and Imamu Amiri Baraka, Ras Baraka inherited their proud tradition of artistic excellence and community activism. The Newark, New Jersey-based poet, author, community activist, father and educator is the author of Black Girls Learn Love Hard and also serves as a councilman of his hometown.  Five-time Night at the Apollo champion jessica Care moore is the author of The Words Don't Fit in My Mouth, The Alphabet Verses The Ghetto, God is Not an American, and a forthcoming book of essays, Literary Apartheid.  She has performed her poems and solo theater shows all over the United States, in South Africa, and across Europe.  Special musical guests will include Sax Appeal, cellist Cecelia Sharpe and Stevie Soul.  A book signing will follow the performances.  Tickets for this event are $10 / $7 for museum members, include dessert and a drink, and can be purchased online at www.brownpapertickets.com or by phone at 800-838-3006.  For more information please visit http://chwmuseum.org/upcoming-events/details/134-love-and-revolution-a-valentines-poetry-performance-

On Sunday February 20 at 4 pm, We Remember You: An Afternoon in the Company of Poetry Masters features Dr. Haki R. Madhubuti and Dr. Sonia Sanchez as they celebrate the voices and verses of Langston Hughes, James Baldwin, Etheridge Knight, Gwendolyn Brooks, Lucille Clifton, Audre Lorde, Zora Neal Hurston and Dudley Randall.  Dr. Haki Madhubuti is a master poet, essayist, editor, publisher and founder of Third World Press.  A native Detroiter, Dr. Madhubuti has authored 40 titles and, along with seminal forces in literature like Sonia Sanchez and Amiri Baraka, helped launch the Black Literary Arts Movement.  He is the founder of the Creative Writing concentration program at Chicago State University and its former chair and distinguished professor before his retirement in 2010.  Sonia Sanchez is a poet, activist, mother, and scholar whose work speaks of issues ranging from peace to women's liberation to racial justice.  A lifetime activist for social change, Sonia participated in the Black Arts Movement and the Black Arts Repertoire Theater, helped found the first Black studies program in the United States, and has taught many free courses at community venues and prisons.  For her outstanding work, Sonia has received both the Robert Frost Medal for distinguished lifetime service to American poetry and the Langston Hughes Poetry Award.  This event is free and open to the public. For more information please visit http://chwmuseum.org/upcoming-events/details/136-we-remember-you-an-afternoon-of-poetry-from-haki-madhubuti-a-sonia-sanchez

Founded in 1965 and located in Detroit’s Cultural Center, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History is the world's largest institution dedicated to the African American experience.  For more information, please visit http://www.chwmuseum.org.

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