DUNMORE, Pa. — Black History Month is a time to commemorate and celebrate the achievements of African American leaders and individuals throughout history. From Frederick Douglass to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., this month helps us recognize the important milestones of these leaders and serves as a reminder of the rich history and contributions of the African American community.
Penn State Scranton is celebrating Black History Month with new events during the month of February.
There will be a showing of the movie “Hidden Figures,” on Thursday, Feb. 6, at 5 p.m. in Dawson 10, along with free refreshments. “Hidden Figures” highlights the incredible untold story of Katherine Jonson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson, the brilliant African American women who faced both racial and gender prejudice and challenges while working behind the scenes at NASA during the “Space Race of 1961” and helped make America’s missions into space possible.
On Friday, Feb. 14, from noon to 3 p.m, the Library will host the “Douglass Day Transcribe-a-Thon” on the main floor. Frederick Douglass was a former slave, social reformer, abolitionist, writer and statesman who believed in, and fought for, the equality of all people.
After his death in 1895, African American communities began celebrating his birthday every year on Feb. 14 to commemorate his memory and contributions to civil rights. This day is also one of the origins of Black History Month.
During the Douglass Day Transcribe-a-Thon, students will learn to enhance digitalized archives and transcribe the words of all sorts of document, from diaries and letters to postcards and certificates. Free food and music will be available.
On Tuesday, Feb. 18 at 7 p.m, Associate Professor of English Eva Tettenborn will be holding a book discussion on Yaa Gyasi’s novel "Homecoming" at the Albright Memorial Library in Scranton. Tettenborn will provide information on the historical context of the novel as well as a brief history of slave narratives throughout African American literature.
Originally published in 2016, "Homecoming" follows the story of the descendants of two half-sisters throughout three centuries and their experiences with colonialism and slavery in Ghana and America.
On Wednesday, Feb. 19, at 3 p.m in The View Café, students can participate in a special Black History Month Kahoot game and Bingo. Free food will be provided. During this event, students will put their knowledge to the test in this fun trivia game about historical milestones and African American achievements. It will be a fun free-for-all where students will get the chance to win prizes.
Finally, on Tuesday, Feb. 25, at noon, The View Café will host a special performance of “Soul Stepping,” a percussive dance that uses the hands, arms, legs and feet to create poly-rhythmic sounds. Today, it’s performed in front of colleges, high schools and churches. Step dance has a close resemblance to South African gumboot dancing, which originated in South African mines in the late 1800s.
Soul Steps, founded in 2005 by dancer, choreographer and producer, Maxine Lyle, Soul Steps is based in the NYC area and showcases the African American dance known as “stepping” (not to be confused with Irish step dancing). Soul-stepping dance is often used in African American culture to express solidarity through chance and coordinated movements. Lyle explains that “our mission is to expand the presence of stepping throughout the world while creating avenues for cultural exchange and awareness among diverse communities.”
Looking to delve a little deeper into Black History Month and some of the noteworthy individuals, events and accomplishments? Then head to the campus library and check out its Black History Month display, featuring famed African American novelists such as Toni Morrison, Frederick Douglass, and more.
“As with every display I put together, I learn a bit about the subject matter and hope that others come take a look and maybe take some items home, too,” said Mary Ann Joyce, Information Resources and Services Support Specialist. “Some of the titles I chose to display in the library are very recent additions to our collection and were just published in 2019.”
Titles include: "Blood, Sweat, and Tears," about the history of black college football; "A Girl Stands in the Door," about the young black women who began fighting for their civil rights and desegregation in public schools; and "The Black and the Blue" is a first-hand account of an African American man working as a police officer and facing racism. The campus library also has the late Kobe Bryant’s book, "The Mamba Mentality, How I Play."
“Another notable book for African American History Month that I displayed is called, 'Free All Along.' In this book, you can read excerpts from interviews conducted years ago by author and poet Robert Penn Warren as he spoke with many historical figures from America’s Civil Rights Movement,” Joyce added.
For those who prefer movies over books, Joyce also has you covered.
“Some of the DVDs I chose to put out for this history month include 'Straight Outta Compton,' 'Hidden Figures,' 'Black Klansman,' and 'Harriet,'” said Joyce.
“'Hidden Figures' taught me about African American women I had never heard about, who helped the USA and NASA behind the scenes during the Space Race," Joyce explained. "'Compton' taught me a musical history lesson about social revolution. 'Black Klansman' is about a true-life undercover agent that infiltrates the KKK. And 'Harriet' is a new addition to our collection that is getting great reviews for its portrayal of Harriet Tubman and her leadership in the Underground Railroad. All of these films take a slice of African American history (the Civil War, the 1960s, the 1970s and the 1980s) and teach lessons while being entertaining,” Joyce explained.
Also, be sure to look around campus for African American quotes of the day that Ray will be posting to help create even more awareness, for example: “The time is always right to do what is right,” said by Martin Luther King Jr. Ray said this is her favorite Black History quote as “it reminds us to do right at all times.”
Students wanting to learn more about diversity and get involved in a more personal and interactive experience should sign up for the next Diversity Circle program, starting on March 19. For more information and to sign up, visit: www.scranton.psu.edu/form/diversity-circles-registration.