Campus News

Black History Month Celebrations Under Way

February 11, 2015
Marvin Krislov
Photo credit: John Seyfried

This month is an important time for all of us to reflect on black history and contemporary life in our country and community. I encourage everyone to celebrate black history by attending the variety of plays, lectures, art exhibits, short films, and community discussions happening throughout Oberlin.

The college’s celebration of Black History Month is under way with an impressive slate of events. This past weekend, I was dazzled by the musical "Dessa Rose," which was performed at Hall Auditorium under the direction of Caroline Jackson-Smith, associate professor of theater and Africana studies. The cast and crew included students and alumni from a range of backgrounds and majors, including theater, jazz studies, Africana studies, and double-degrees. The collaboration on a winter-term project of this magnitude between students, alumni, and faculty from the college and conservatory highlighted Oberlin at its interdisciplinary best.

The music of "Dessa Rose" is wonderful. The story, taken from a novel of the same name by Sherley Anne Williams, takes a fresh look at slavery in the ante-bellum South through the lens of an unlikely alliance between Dessa Rose, a young slave, and Ruth, a well-born white woman. The production was educational on so many levels, as well as emotionally engaging and thought-provoking. Kudos to everyone involved with this brilliant production!

There are many other events coming up as part of Oberlin’s Black History Month celebration. On Thursday, “Black Ballot Power: A Conservation on the 1965 Voting Rights Act,” will be held at 7:30 p.m. in Hallock Auditorium of the Adam Joseph Lewis Center. It will feature panelists Charles McKinney, associate professor and director of Africana studies at Rhodes College, and Pablo Mitchell, professor of history and comparative American studies at Oberlin College. Pam Brooks, Eric and Jane Nord Associate Professor and chair of African studies at Oberlin, will moderate the discussion.

Later this month, I’m looking forward to a guest recital and voice and spirituals master class with François Clemmons ’67, as well as “An Evening with Dr. Regina Benjamin.” François Clemmons is an accomplished opera singer, actor, playwright, and author, who is also well known for his appearances as Officer Clemmons on the TV show "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood." For his recital, Clemmons will perform a selection of American Negro Spirituals with pianist Kate Gridley. It will begin at 8 p.m. in the Conservatory’s David H. Stull Recital Hall.

A former Surgeon General of the United States, Dr. Benjamin will speak on February 25 in Finney Chapel. Her speech resumes the 2014-2015 Convocation Series. Again, I encourage everyone to take advantage of the great events celebrating Black History Month. For a full listing of Black History Month events, see the Events Calendar.

On a sad note, I was shocked and deeply saddened by the news today of the murders in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The incident is reverberating across our nation, especially on college and university campuses. My heart goes out to the families of the victims and to their communities. Please join me in holding them in your thoughts and prayers. Also, please keep in mind that Oberlin provides support for students from a wide range of resources, especially class deans. Do not hesitate to reach out to them if you feel the need.

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