CSUN Explores the Power of African American Arts for Black History Month

Curtis Byrd led the crowd in a drumming session at a Black History Month celebration last year. Photo by Sonia Gurrola.

Curtis Byrd led the crowd in a drumming session at a Black History Month celebration last year. Photo by Sonia Gurrola.

Art has the power to inspire, to provoke, to celebrate and empower. It also can tell the story of a people, a culture, a country, a continent or an individual.

The Department of Africana Studies and Black House at California State University, Northridge will be exploring the rich and complex realm of African American art during the month of February, Black History Month.

“African American art and culture have influenced the global aesthetic for centuries,” said Marquita Gammage, chair of the Africana Studies department in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences. “We have used our aesthetic ideals to transform public perceptions, advocate for justice and highlight the beauty and strength of our people. African American artistic expressions continue to expand the human imagination in music, art, fashion, literature, film and media. Even in the face of cultural appropriation and the growth of AI, the African and Black aesthetic continues to thrive, creating revolutionary brilliance in our world.

“This year’s Black History Month celebrates African, Africana and Black arts and Africana people’s creative impact on the world,” she said.

CSUN’s Black History Month celebration, “The African Diaspora and the Arts,” includes “Becoming Jabari Ali: A Conversation on Arts and Activism” from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 7, in the West Valley Room of the University Student Union (USU); “Game Changers Unleashed: Black Student Athlete Exchange” on Monday, Feb. 12, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. in the USU’s Grand Salon; and a creatives panel discussion led by CSUN alumnus Tynisha Lewis from 11 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 19, in the Northridge Center of the USU.

“Art and culture are mosaics that blend the elements of African, Caribbean and Black American experiences,” said Africana Studies professor Cedric Hackett, one of the organizers of CSUN’s Black History Month celebration. “African Americans have had a significant influence on how culture is expressed. African American artists have used their skills to leave a lasting legacy in a range of domains, spanning music, dance, literature, athletics, community empowerment and the preservation of history. We pay tribute to the tenacity, inventiveness and impact of African Americans who have profoundly shaped global culture.”

The monthlong celebration includes the second annual Q-Bids Recognition Ceremony on Wednesday, Feb. 14, from 4 to 6 p.m. in the Whitsett Room of Sierra Hall to honor the supporters of CSUN’s DuBois-Hamer Institute for Academic Achievement. This year’s honorees are retired Africana studies professor Barbara Rhodes, founder of the institute; CSUN’s Division of Student Affairs and Educational Opportunity Program (EOP); Local District North-West of the Los Angeles Unified School District and the California Wellness Foundation.

The institute’s mission is to promote student success through community and campus partnerships. It cultivates active and collaborative partnerships with faculty, staff and students across the CSUN campus community; works with local groups and organizations in Los Angeles County; and provides service to cultural and educational institutions in the community.

The University Student Union and University Counseling Services are also hosting a presentation of “Beloved Community” by Martin Luther King, Jr. with speaker and CSUN alum Ekemini Uwan, a public theologian, international human rights activist and co-author of the 2023 NAACP Image Award-nominated book “Truth’s Table: Black Women’s Musings on Life, Love, and Liberation.”

For a list of Black History Month activities at CSUN, visit the Department of Africana Studies website at https://www.csun.edu/social-behavioral-sciences/africana-studies.

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