Big and Baby Steps In Telling the Story
by Sandra Martin
For some institutions, African American heritage is a just-discovered treasure. That's the case with Chesapeake Maritime Museum, as director of communications Gwyn Novak explains:
"We're certainly becoming interested in incorporating African American heritage into our programs and exhibits, but historically we have not. Starting with small baby steps, we're trying to tell everyone's story, both in our permanent exhibits and program schedule."
The Maritime Museum is reaching out to preserve the region's rich African American maritime experience before it's lost. In a major outreach, folklorist Kelly Seltault will spend two years locating, interviewing and photographing "as many people as will talk about their life experience and work in crab houses," said Novak. On other fronts, a research intern, Jane Carr, began researching and writing the story of Downes Curtis, a nationally known sailmaker "just down the road in Oxford." She also reached across the Bay to document the story of Highland Beach, founded by Frederick Douglass' son and daughter-in-law as Chesapeake Bay's first black beach community. Eventually, some of that research will show up in exhibits enlightening the hundreds of thousands who visit the popular museum each year.
This month, watermen and students of watermen will tell stories of life on the water. In popular touring programs, you can learn from scholars about African American seamen in the age of sail or go beyond the movie in understanding the significance of the slave ship Amistad. Or you can meet the real thing: 80-year-old waterman Earl White, newly honored as an Admiral of the Chesapeake.
For Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, Black History Month is opportunity knocking. "February in St. Michael's is kind of slow, and Black History Month is a good time to try and bring people our way."
Getting to Slavery
For many museums, slavery has been the sticking point. Not only is it a difficult subject generally; it's particularly troublesome for historic homes with slavery in their own past. In Chesapeake Country, Historic Annapolis Foundation, Charles Carroll House and Historic London Town face that embarrassment.
"The issue of slavery and how you deal with it has held up the museum community," acknowledged Ann Fligsten, executive director of Historic Annapolis Foundation. "I say it did happen and is a part of history we have not explored. We need to deal with it."
The foundation, which owns or manages many historic sites, is dealing with slavery by incorporating slave and servant stories in its traditional stories. Said Fligsten: "We see African American heritage as intertwined with every other history and not a field unto itself. So we wouldn't have an African American corner in a museum, but we'd interweave it, like we do at William Paca House, into our regular interpretation."
Slavery is one of the many chapters of African American history in Annapolis, as you'll see if you follow the Foundation's Walking Tour of Black Annapolis. Another chapter is soon to get fuller telling, Fligsten reports, as restoration begins on the Maynard House on Duke of Gloucester Street, which has been in free black ownership for most of its 150-year history.
Just opening its book on slavery is Historic London Town in Edgewater. "We try to talk about what happened here in the context of society as a whole in the 17th and 18th centuries," said Greg Stiverson, executive director of the foundation preserving a community that flourished in part through the work of slaves. By fall of 1999, Stiverson expects London Town to be presenting programs "comparing and contrasting bonded labor" generally as the result of a grant and research initiative on white indentured servants.
Neither the Historic Annapolis Foundation or Historic London Town is offering special programs for Black History month. That timing suits Stiverson fine: "I'd rather do something on black history in August, when no body else is," he says.
But not everybody does it the same way. Confrontation, not integration, is the goal of the permanent black history Month exhibit at Maryland Historical Society in Baltimore.
"It's meant to shock people," says adult program specialist Michelle Carr. Mining the Museum, an art installation created by artist Fred Wilson, "is a very provocative exhibit," Carr explains. "We want to force people to have a dialogue. Though it uses a background of slavery and discrimination, it's a very contemporary exhibit."
Integrated at Last
Arts organizations have come a long way in integrating black experience, as you'll see, for example, in the rich programs offered this month by the Annapolis Symphony or at the Baltimore Museum of Art.
That's in part because historical societies, with their dedication to the past, tend to conservatism, while arts organizations tend to the avant garde. In another part, it's because art museums and symphonies don't have to confront the great stumbling block of slavery. Instead, they can fill their programs with contemporary artists for whom incorporating the styles and lore of their culture is a matter of pride.
In that vein is the song suite of Annapolis Symphony Orchestra conductor Leslie Dunner, premiering at the Symphony's concerts February 26 and 27, the composer-conductor told us from Halifax, Nova Scotia, where he was preparing another concert. The songs are three spirituals - "Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child," "Nobody Knows the Troubles I've Seen," and "Deep River" - plus the ballad "I Gave My Love a Cherry." They're sung by guest soloist Kishna Davis, who is also African American.
Also on the program is American Fanfare, by African American composer Adolphus Hailstork, Symphony No. 1 by Leonard Bernstein, and Symphony No. 2 by Howard Hanson.
Black History Month was no consideration in his choices, said Dunner, whose goal was not to showcase blacks but instead to "focus on the contributions of America to music with as many cultures as I could."
Symphony executive director Jane Schorsch concurred: "We have no need to to isolate and we've not done that. Throughout the year, we pick our music and soloists on quality to represent the entire spectrum and audience of American culture."
But it wasn't always that way. Until well into this century, both art and music in black culture's traditional forms were often scorned, and artists who worked in more European forms and styles were neglected - unless, as with the famous painter of nature, John James Audubon, their race was concealed. Nowadays, works once scorned or ignored are prized.
As at the Baltimore Museum of Art, where for Black History Month they're proudly showcasing works another era would have scorned: Story quilts. Combining appliqué from the African tradition with American-born quilts, slave women transformed scraps of cloth into coverings both beautiful and useful. They not only kept you warm but also recorded history, told stories and, it's now believed, served as signs on the Underground Railroad. Overlooked in our age, African story-telling quilts today are treasures museums vie for. This month, see the quilts of fabric artist Faith Ringgold, whose work ranges from African American home life to the international capital of art. On display at the museum is "Dancing at the Louvre: Faith Ringgold's French Collection and Other Story Quilts."
The fullest treasure is often on view in African American institutions. That's because there the African American story can be told whole, as a human story loaded with ambiguity, as deputy director of the Banneker-Douglass Museum, Joseph Johnson, explains.
"Ours is a story about people who've been seen as distinct and come to grips with that distinctness. In coming to grips with the larger society, there's the ebb and flow of how Americanized you want to be and how much you want to reach back to Africa, just as different immigrant groups face that. But African Americans didn't come as a voluntary immigrant group. They came against their will, so for them America was not the land of opportunity. We try to tell that story with its different times and emphases."
Some of those times have been the worst of times, encompassing experiences that are hard to speak of, worse to see. There's no shrinking from those times at another African American institution, The Great Blacks in Wax Museum in Baltimore. There you can walk through the lower quarters of a slave ship under way. That's the first chapter of the story of how Africans became Americans. It's horrifying. It's white history at its worst. And it's where African and American reconciliation must begin.
From Western Shore to Eastern, Black History Month proves the point of Maryland's director of museum services Wayne Clark: "There's a lot going on across the state to tell the whole story."
Annapolis Waterman Earl White: Admiral of the Chesapeake
Born in Dames Quarter, Md. in November, 1918, Earl White has followed the water since he was 19, mostly sailing aboard skipjacks. Ask any waterman and he'll tell you the hardest job on the water is "drudgin' for artsers," as Earl has done in parts of seven decades.
When the oyster industry crashed, Earl joined the Chesapeake Bay Foundation as a field educator aboard the skipjack Stanley Norman. Now he teaches people about oyster reefs as filters, habitats and food for marine plants and animals - and their one-time value as a commercial fishery.
On his 80th birthday, celebrated as Earl White Day in Annapolis, the waterman was named an Admiral of the Chesapeake by Gov. Parris Glendening.
Dig the Treasure:Celebrate Black History
by Mark Burns
African American history has been the hidden treasure of Chesapeake Country. Slow to be mined, it's a treasure now being recovered in sparkling lodes and veins revealed for all the world to see.
Long-lost stories are emerging from obscure clues discovered under floor boards and in dusty archives. African American landmarks are rising from obscurity to take their places on Maryland's tourism maps. Museums and cultural organizations are enlarging their programs to showcase the works of Africans and African Americans. Notable African Americans from times past are walking our streets. In Baltimore and Annapolis, we can follow in their footsteps.
There's no better time than February - Black History Month - to learn about the lives, times and contributions of those who transcended slavery, discrimination and ruthless racism to enlarge their souls, advance their people and enrich us all.
They're extraordinary people - abolitionists, scholars, astronomers, explorers - but also ordinary people - dentists, railroad porters and waiters, watermen and crabpickers.
Nor has the line of heroes ended. Our communities continue to be rich with men and women who are creating living legends by pursuing their work or dream or art with extraordinary diligence.
Here's how, where and when to make the acquaintance of heros historic and contemporary during this month of opportunity
Black Men, Blue Waters Fri. Feb. 5-Realize the role of black watermen on the Bay in "Black Men, Blue Waters: African Americans on the Chesapeake." The story comes to life with a wide array of artifacts, insightful photos and folk songs of the sea, sung by the Northern Neck Chanty Singers, a chorus of 11 retired watermen. 6pm @ National Aquarium, Inner Harbor, Baltimore. $5: 410/576-3800.
Black America in Federal Times Sat. Feb. 6-Discover the diverse roles of African Americans in the War of 1812 as the Star-Spangled Banner Flag House hosts an afternoon of family fun. Kids can dress up as either American defenders of Fort McHenry or as British Marines and have their picture taken. Whole families can take part in role playing to see how African American families were changed by the conflict. Noon-4 @ the house, 844 East Pratt St., Baltimore. $4 w/discounts, kids free: 410/837-1793.
African Adventure Feb. 6, 13 & 20-Sample African heritage as Walters Art Gallery celebrates Black History Month with African Adventures, a family-geared tour of African artworks. Escape the stereotype of sub-Saharan tribal masks and use the free ArtWard Bound ArtPack to guide you through an exhibit of Ancient Egyptian, Ethiopian, Medieval North African Islamic and 19th-century French art and artifacts. Kids can make African art of their own to take home at craft tables. Free w/admission. 1-4pm @ Walters Art Gallery, 600 North Charles St., Baltimore. $5 w/age discounts; free 11-1 Sa: 410/547-9000 x237.
Wordly Celebration Sun. Feb. 7-Get literary for Black History Month with "The African American Read-In." Middle school principal Cheryl Pasteur reads, followed by a reading from Raising Dragons, Harvey Potter's Balloon Farm & In Mama's Kitchen by author Jerdine Nolen Harold. Kryst'l-Kleer wraps it up with a performance of the story of the Great Kapok Tree. 2-3:30pm @ Barnes & Noble, Annapolis Harbour Center: 410/573-1115.
Go Underground Mon. Feb. 8-Take a vicarious trip on the Underground Railroad w/author, historian and adventurer Tony Cohen, of Silver Spring, who has personally and arduously retraced 800 miles of the railroad from Alabama to Canada. Among other adventures, he recreated Harry "Box" Brown's 1848 attempt to escape slavery by shipping himself in a packing crate by rail. Cohen's story of his journey will be published this year. 10am @ Belair Mansion, 12207 Tulip Grove Dr., Bowie. $5: 301/809-3089.
A Feast of Tributes Wed. Feb. 10-Hear "Beyond Slavery-The Untold Story of Tenacity, Resourcefulness and the Foundation of an African American Culture" (noon) Sample African American cuisine (2:30-5pm) Student readings, including selections from Martin Luther King Jr. (3:30pm) Pies and cakes (4:20pm). CCCC Calvert Campus, Broomes Island Rd., Port Republic. Free: 301/855-1211.
Remembering the Negro Leagues Sam Lacy? If the name's familiar, it's because he's the nation's oldest sportswriter: 95 and counting as he churns out columns for the Baltimore Afro-American. But Lacy has also been a pioneer and hell-raiser for equal treatment of African American athletes since his stories on baseball-great Jackie Robinson nearly 50 years ago. He chronicled the racism that he and Robinson endured in the South, and he pushed for more black quarterbacks in the NFL.
Time was when black and white baseball greats never met on the field because of segregation. That's what former Negro League player Ernest Burke, Elite Giants manager Dick Powell, sportswriter-author Sam Lacy and author Moses Newson talk about in a Black History Month celebration of the Negro Leagues on Feb. 13 (11-noon). Lacy and Newson sign copies of their book Fighting for Fairness: The Life Story of Hall of Fame Sportswriter Sam Lacy (noon-1). After autographs, turn your attention to two Negro Leagues documentaries, Only the Ball was White (1:30-2pm) and There was Always Sun Shining Someplace (2:30-3:30pm).
The celebration spills over to Feb. 14 when the museum rescreens the documentaries in reverse order. Both days @ the Babe Ruth Museum, 216 Emory St. $6 w/age discounts: 410/727-1539.
Ladysmith Black Mambazo Melodizes Sun. Feb. 14-When South Africa's Ladysmith Black Mambazo intoned its first harmonies, Nelson Mandela imprisoned under apartheid. Thirty years later, Mandela is the president of a thriving democracy and Ladysmith Black Mambazo has succeeded smashingly - releasing 40 albums and winning an international following with the enchanting melodies that accompany Paul Simon on his Graceland album.
You can hear the 10-voice South African ensemble's tightly honed choral presentations, some in the Zulu language, and "Isicathamiya," the songs once sung by South African mine workers for entertainment: 7:30pm @ Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, 1212 Cathedral St., Baltimore. $18, $28 and $40; rsvp: 410/783-8000.
Wild, Wild West Tues. Feb. 16-Discover how African Americans helped tame the Wild West as George Circling Eagle, a traveling lecturer and accomplished actor, highlights intriguing little-known facts. Through slides and historic quotes, Circling Eagle sheds light on the many black cowpunchers on the Chisolm Trail, the formidable Buffalo Soldiers of the U.S. Cavalry and the 24 all-black towns that sprouted up in Oklahoma between 1890 & 1900.
Circling Eagle tours the nation with his presentation, enlightening on the lesser known histories of African Americans. His other credits include producing off-Broadway musicals and acting in TV commercials and movies, including The Cotton Club, Wall Street and Ghostbusters. 7pm @ Prince Frederick Library: 410/535-0291.
Anne Arundel Libraries Celebrate Feb. 16, 18 & 23-Drumming, dancing and discovery typify Anne Arundel County Public Library's special events as 3 area branches celebrate Black History Month. The All Natural Dancers and Drummers guide you through the rhythms and movements of West African and Transafrican folklore at Eastport-Annapolis Neck (7pm Feb. 16) and Severna Park (7pm Feb. 23). Annapolis Library hosts "Follow the Drinking Gourd," a program featuring stories of the Underground Railroad and making family trees w/photos and memorabilia (9:30am Feb. 18). Free: 410/222-7371.
Maritime Black Heritage Feb. 17, 22 & 24-Black history comes alive as Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum honors the triumphs and tragedies of African Americans in a series of special events:
Wed. Feb. 17-Examine the vital roles of black sailors in economics, liberty, and black identity throughout the Americas as Dr. W. Jeffrey Bolster uses archives and rich images to present "Black Jacks: African American Seamen in the Age of Sail" (10:30am);
Mon. Feb. 22-Hear the story behind the voyage of the schooner Amistad as Quentin Snediker examines the event's effect on slavery and race in America in the talk "Amistad! The Past and the Future." Then get the scoop on Mystic Seaport, CT's efforts to build a full-size replica of the vessel (10:30am);
Wed. Feb. 24-Learn first-hand about life on the water from Earl White, an 80-year-old waterman, who shares stories, songs, memories and anecdotes in "On the Chesapeake with Earl White: A View from the Decks" (10:30am). All @ the Museum in St. Michaels. $5 w/member discounts: 410/745-2916.
The Slaves of Carroll House Feb. 19-20-Delve into the story of slaves who maintained the lifestyle of the 18th-century Carroll family through discussion and drama presentation as Charles Carroll House hosts "Dreams of My Soul: In Search of the Slave Family Voice." The program is based on the museum's original research into the lineages of Carroll House slave families. 7pm @ Charles Carroll House, 107 Duke of Gloucester St., Annapolis. $8: 410/269-1737.
Get a Clean Bill of Health Sat. Feb. 20-The Concerned Black Men of Calvert County want to make sure you're in good health to enjoy the month's festivities. Stop into their Health Fair for free cholesterol screenings, blood pressure screenings, prostate checks and more. 9-noon @ Carol Victoria Center, Huntingtown: 410/257-2259.
Tasty Heritage Sat. Feb. 20-Taste African American heritage in the most literal sense as food historian Sue Latini, at left, prepares traditional African American foods. Sample fresh greens, chicken & dumplings and sweet potato pie cooked the old-fashioned way. Bring home recipes to try yourself. Noon-4 @ Star-Spangled Banner Flag House, 844 East Pratt St., Baltimore. $4 w/discounts: 410/837-1793.
Commemorative Shocks and Quilts Feb. 20 & 27-Maryland Historical Society highlights the African American experience in 2 unique ways:
Sat. Feb. 20-take a guided tour of Mining the Museum, an award-winning permanent exhibit of installation art by New York's Fred Wilson. Designed to shock and provoke thought, it uses artful exhibition of museum artifacts to highlight Wilson's own experiences as a black man and to challenge viewers to examine issues of race, stereotypes, cultural identity and truth. The messages hit home via mediums of color, audio, video, lighting and juxtaposition as they work together to show different perspectives. Should the juxtaposed images - such as a KKK hood in a baby carriage or slave shackles displayed with fine silver - confuse you, your guide, adult program specialist Michelle Carr, can help you understand it all (1pm);
Sat. Feb. 27-Get started on your own family quilt as Baltimore master quilter Barbara Pietila, below, teaches the basic techniques for recording family events in quilts and on fabric. Includes patchwork, photo transfer, dyes & paint, appliqué and embellishments. After, Pietila helps you get started on designing your quilt. Box lunches by rsvp ($10); otherwise bring your own (9:30-4; ages 12+; $45/person w/discounts). Both @ MHS, 201 West Monument St., Baltimore: 410/685-3750 x352 for tour; x372 for quilt.
Carson Signs The Big Picture Tues. Feb. 23-Combine these ingredients: an inner-city upbringing, a fatherless home, failing grades, a violent temper. What do you get? Surely not a world-class brain surgeon. But that is exactly how Dr. Benjamin Carson of Johns Hopkins Medical Institution got his start in life. In Horatio-Alger fashion, Carson rose from an impoverished childhood to become one of today's foremost medical figures. The 47-year-old pediatric neurosurgeon, best-selling author and holder of 22 honorary degrees performs up to 500 operations each year, serves on the boards of Kellogg Co. and Yale University, speaks before audiences around the world on the quest for excellence - but still makes time for his family. How does he do it? Get the answer straight from the source as Dr. Ben Carson signs copies of The Big Picture, his autobiography and 3rd book, in which you'll find a simple formula for health & happiness. 5pm @ Borders, Bowie: 301/352-5560.
Tuskegee Airman Talks Wed. Feb. 24-The Tuskegee Airmen earned an unparalleled reputation for valor in the skies as they fought in WWII for a country that denied them basic liberties. They showed equal valor in their civil rights struggle at home.
Ted Robinson, a former B-25 pilot and Tuskegee alum, tells his story in an enlightening overview of African Americans in aviation. Part of his tale is the difficulties facing black pilots who tried to break into commercial aviation after the war.
Robinson himself went on to build a grand career, serving as a reservist flyboy while working as an instructor and commercial pilot. He would later take the lead as an aerospace engineer in Department of Defense projects, becoming one of the first African American aviation safety inspectors and serving as visiting historian at the National Air and Space Museum before retiring in 1992. 7pm @ Prince Frederick Library: 410/535-0291.
Grand African American Tour of Baltimore Feb. 25 & 26-History is a passion with Tom Saunders, and he brings it to life each year all the way down to the horses and sheep. Since 1989, his African American sight-seeing company has staged a grand yearly tour of historic Baltimore. The luxury buses taking you on this tour are disguised time machines.
At Carroll Park, ghosts will rise - bought to life with a real quartz stone used there in African rituals - to tell you about life on an industrial plantation. You'll see Harriet Tubman and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. At the President Street Station, where the Civil War began, you'll see slaves who boxed and mailed themselves to freedom.
You'll ride the water taxi to Fells Point to meet shipyard worker Jacob Butler and where Isaac Meyers 19th century shipyard stood. You'll meet Arctic explorer Matthew Henson's nephew James, dressed like his uncle during the expedition in Eskimo parka with dogs and sled.
On the lighter side, you'll stop by the Strand Ballroom to learn the Lindy Hop, hear the orchestras of Count Basie and Duke Ellington at the Royal Theater and see singer Billie Holiday riding along Pennsylvania Street in a 1945 car.
"Once they've seen a story come to life, people never forget it," says Saunders.
African American Renaissance Tour's luxury buses leave on 4-hour tours at 9, 9:30 and 10 from 3 city locations. Traditional shoebox lunch included. $30 w/group discounts; rsvp: 410/728-3837.
Poetry Slam Fri. Feb. 26-Experience the powerful poetry of Jessica Care Moore, a young Detroit native and 5-time winner on the nationally televised It's Showtime at the Apollo. Joining Moore for a poetry slam session are St. Mary's College students, staff and faculty. Anyone else wanting to step up and voice verse may. 8pm @ Auerbach Auditorium, St. Mary's College, St. Mary's City: 301/862-0200.
Rocketmen Thru Feb. 26-African Americans have made great strides over the years, in some cases soaring out into space. Anne Arundel Community College hosts "Soaring Above Setbacks: African Americans in the Space Program," an exhibit of photos, color posters, profiles, biographical sketches and video clips focusing on the accomplishments of black astronauts and scientists in NASA. Discover the stories of 13 astronauts and 7 scientists, including USAF Col. Guy S. Bluford Jr. - the first black man in space. 9-4:30 M-F @ Pascal Center, Anne Arundel Community College, Arnold: 410/541-2529.
Dunner Does Diversity Feb. 26 & 27-Maestro Dunner takes up the reins once again w/Annapolis Symphony Orchestra, leading the orchestra through a diverse mix of contemporary compositions. The concerts open with African American composer (and Norfolk State University professor) Adolphus Hailstork's "American Fanfare." Other pieces include Leonard Bernstein's dramatic "Symphony No. 1" which has the flavor of his Hebraic heritage and the local premiere of Dunner's "Songs of a Motherless Child." Complementing both Bernstein's finale and Dunner's suite of spirituals is the voice of Kishna Davis, a soprano from Columbia, MD. The concert closes with Howard Hanson's windy "Symphony No. 2." 8pm @ Maryland Hall, Annapolis. $27 w/discounts F; $29 w/discounts Sa; rsvp: 410/263-0907.
Robeson Remembered Sat. Feb. 27-Living history gets musical as the Calvert Performing Arts Series presents in two parts: "The Measure of a Man: A Tribute to Paul Robeson." For the lively second half, the steel band, Trinidad and Tobago.
Dingwall Fleary, pianist and vocalist, portrays Lawrence Brown, Robeson's long-time piano accompanist, in a set of Robeson's smooth, traditional music. Robeson was an all-American college football star at Rutgers, the valedictorian of his class who earned a law degree from Columbia University. But acting and singing were his passions, and he became an acclaimed star of stage and radio, praised for his interpretations of black spirituals and folk songs. Robeson got political in the '40s and '50s by supporting independence for African colonies before being driven out of the U.S. for having Communist sympathies in the era of McCarthyism. 7:30pm @ auditorium, Calvert High, Prince Frederick. $10 w/age discounts: 410/535-0291.
Stars Shone the Way to Freedom ThruFebruary-Learn what role the North Star and night sky played in times of slavery as the Maryland Science Museum presents the exhibit "Follow the Drinking Gourd." 10-5 M-F; 10-6 SaSu @ the museum, 601 Light St., Inner Harbor, Baltimore. $9.75 w/discounts: 410/685-2370.
Black History on the B&O ThruFebruary-Throughout Black History Month, visitors to B&O Railroad Museum can learn an oft-overlooked piece of railroad history in the exhibit "Porters, Waiters and Chefs: African American traditions of Railroad Hospitality." The photographic exhibit uses B&O publicity shots taken between 1920 and 1980 to supplement recent permanent additions to show how these railway men and women helped established a now-lost culture of comfort on the train. The hospitality workers of B&O also formed the first labor union of black workers in the U.S. with A. Philip Randolph's Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters.
Weekend activities throughout February include tours by former porters, job demos, films and kids' activities. Feb. 20 features a related book discussion with Dr. Melinda Chateuvert, author of Marching Together: Women of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters (3pm). Feb. 27 brings together current and former railroad employees to discuss current issues and possibilities in railroad hospitality. 10-5 @ B&O Railroad Museum, 901 West Pratt St., Baltimore. $6.50 w/age discounts: 410/752-2388.
Buffalo Soldiers on Top of the World Sundays thru February-Take a retrospective look at the Buffalo Soldiers, the African American men of the U.S. Army's 9th & 10th Cavalries in the late 1800s. Tour an exhibit of photos complemented by reenactments.
Saturdays thru February-Celebrate Black History Month w/performances by various artists for the Saturday Stories at the Top series. Includes Abu the Flutemaker (Feb. 6) and slam poet Gayle Danely (Feb. 27). Story series 1pm Sa; reenactments 3-5pm Su @ Top of the World, 27th floor of World Trade Center, Inner Harbor, Baltimore. $4 w/discounts: 410/837-4515.
Tribute to Women of Color Sat. March 6-Nominate African American women of Anne Arundel County to be honored at YWCA and Anne Arundel Medical Center's Tribute to Women of Color Awards Luncheon. A buffet luncheon, guest speaker and entertainment all lead to the awards ceremony, recognizing unsung heroines who have helped communities grow. Categories include Future Leaders, Service to Youth and Pathfinders. Winners receive scholarships supported by Morgan State University, YWCA and corporate sponsors. 11-2 @ Holiday Inn, Riva Rd., Annapolis. $25 w/YWCA member discounts; rsvp and nomination forms: 410/626-7800.
The Teeth of Progress Thru March-Discover the pioneering - but historically overlooked - African American dentists who integrated the U.S. Army Dental Corps at The D. Harris National Museum of Dentistry's special exhibition "Breaking the Barrier: African Dentists in World War I."
Based on the research of dental historian (and former Air Force Reserve captain) Dr. John M. Hyson Jr., the museum, the exhibit highlights and explores the contributions of the 92nd Division, one of two African American units to serve in WWI.
Included is a typical WWI dental clinic - complete with a portable dental chair, foot drill and cuspidor - alongside a 92nd Division uniform.
"There were no dentists [in the U.S. Army] until 1901," explains Hyson. "Enlisted men only went for three to five years, so why spend money fixing their teeth? That was the theory then."
Not until the Spanish American War in 1901 was the Army Dental Corps formed. African American dentists were eligible for appointment, but all applications were denied. The vague distinction "physically disqualified" was a common excuse.
It took a world war before, in 1917, the U.S. Army finally allowed African American dentists to serve their country. They were permitted to treat only black troops.
"These men set the pace. They set a precedent for what happened later with integrated society," observes Hyson.
Recall those times 10-4 W-Sa; 1-4pm Su @ National Museum of Dentistry, 31 South Greene St., Baltimore: 410/706-0810.
Artful Black History Thru April 11-Celebrate African American heritage during and beyond Black History Month as the Baltimore Museum of Art welcomes the sculptures of Elizabeth Catlett and the story quilts of Faith Ringgold. Both artists explore the experience of African American women. "Elizabeth Catlett Sculpture: A Fifty-Year Retrospective" features works of wood, marble, stone, terra cotta and bronze figures. "Dancing at the Louvre: Faith Ringgold's French Collection and Other Story Quilts" displays distinctive works created by painting enchanting tales on canvas then quilting on top. Events:
Bring the family Feb. 4 for the Hearts of Heritage celebration featuring music, art, performances and creative fun (5-9pm; free). The same day features a kids' workshop for making their own story quilts (6-8pm; free) Feb. 7 features a gallery talk w/Catlett as she reflects on her life (3pm) February's events come to a climactic close on Feb. 21 w/Black History Month Family Day, featuring storytelling, a giant add-on quilt, an oratory contest, gallery talks & tours, kids' workshops and more (1-4pm; free). 11-5 W-F; 11-6 SaSu @ Baltimore Museum of Art, 10 Art Museum Dr. $6 w/discounts: 410/396-6600 www.artbma.org.
From Douglass to King Thru April 24-The quest for civil rights is highlighted in the exhibit, "Manly Voices, Womanly Deeds," a play on Maryland's state motto. The show reflects the evolution of empowerment of African American men and women. Starting with the death in 1895 of Frederick Douglass - who embodied both voice and deed - it shows the community activism of black women in the quest for equality as compared to the more wordly approach of men. It concludes w/Martin Luther King Jr.'s March on Washington in 1963 when deeds and words combined again in one man.
February also features a few things on the side, including the town meeting "Express Yourself For Our Young People - Our Future" featuring Gayle Donley on Feb. 19 (7-9pm) and a marketplace for Black History Month gifts on Feb. 20 (noon-3). All @ Banneker-Douglass Museum, Annapolis: 410/974-2893.
| Issue 5 |
Volume VII Number 5
February 4-10, 1999
New Bay Times
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