Memorial Art Gallery Celebrates Black History Month

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The Memorial Art Gallery hosted Black History Month Family Fun Day Sunday, providing art workshops for children, a number of musical performances and community information.

During the day bands played in the Vanden Brul Atrium, welcoming visitors with live music. The genres ranged from Caribbean drumming by the Sojourner house’s Dreamseeds Programs to The Jimmie Highsmith Jr. Band.

Best of all? The event was only a suggested donation of $5.

“It’s important to have events like this,” said T’Masha White. She’d brought her daughter, Honestee, 7, along. She said they’d made Oprah puppets in one of the workshops and seen Jimmie Highsmith perform. “All month we celebrate Black history but I think sometimes to see it in a venue like this. It’s even cooler because it shows that our contributions to art, to music, and just us, mattering in general. So I brought her along.”

via mag.rochester.edu

East High School Royals perform at Black History Month Family day, ending the event with quite literally a bang. Credit: Tianna Mañón

However, the event didn’t just celebrate Black History Month abstractly, coordinators of the events made sure to hit on current themes as well. By the creative workshops, Open Mic’s Black Lives Matter art contest winners were on display and during the showcase powerful, spoken word by We All Write, a “consortium” of black women writers, was snapped and “mhmm”-ed to. Their work focused on the magic and strength of black women because of how male-dominated Black History Month can be.

And Tokeya C. Graham discussed this strength on stage in her piece, describing the strength of a black woman and then stating: “Those that suppose she should be broke… it’s irrational to play herself small, it’s inconceivable so that someone inferior can steel her shine”

Tokeya C. Graham performs at Black History Month Family Day.

Tokeya C. Graham performs at Black History Month Family Day.

We All Write was also joined by the East High School Royals, one of the  and Dunwoode Dance, a classical black arts program. Backstage, the dancers said they felt proud to be performing in the showcase as black dancers.

“This is my first time at this event,” said Keith Wilson, a Rochester resident. “…I didn’t know there was so much talent in our city. I got to learn history, yeah, but it’s cool to see also a focus on the cool things happening now that probably a lot of people don’t even know about. I know I didn’t.”

Black  History Month Family Day is just one of many Family and Community Days the Memorial Art Gallery sponsors throughout the year. The next is Asian/Pacific American Heritage Family Fun Day  Learn more here.

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