January 31, 2024
On Campus

Honoring Black History Month

Series of events explores and amplifies the profound contributions of African Americans

Wittenberg University is pleased to offer a series of educational and community-focused events in honor of Black History Month, beginning today, February 1, 2024.

Leading off the month will be an enlightening series featuring a diverse lineup of speakers and engaging conversations. Organized by Julius Bailey, Wittenberg professor and chair of philosophy and director of African & Diaspora Studies and Justice, Law & Public Policy, the series is titled “Aesthetics In Black: A Series on Race, Art, and Expression.” All events are free and open to the public.

“We are delighted to announce a thought-provoking and inspiring lecture series titled ‘Aesthetics in Black,’” Bailey said. “Wittenberg University, renowned for its commitment to diversity and inclusion, has organized this lecture series to celebrate and explore the rich contributions of African Americans to the nation's artistic heritage and dedicated to promoting an open dialogue on crucial topics surrounding art, race, and representation. At a time when Ohio and other states are pushing back on diversity initiatives and African American History in classrooms, I am proud to work at a university and lead a department that values the contributions of African Americans to our nation's artistic tapestry."

Bailey will take the mic first presenting a lecture titled “LWB: Loving While Black – A Radical Ethic,” at 2:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 1, in Ness Family Auditorium inside Hollenbeck Hall. On Tuesday, Feb. 6, Sierra Leone, a poet and writer, who is the president, artistic director, and co-founder of the OFP Theatre and Production Company, will join the series. A Governor's Award-winning poet, Leone will captivate the audience with "Not my dust, But my Story," an exploration of the power of storytelling. The event will take place at 2:30 p.m. in room 105 of the Joseph C. Shouvlin Center for Lifelong Learning. Students interested in poetry and writing are also encouraged to attend a lunch with Leone from 12:30 to 2 p.m. To reserve a spot, reach out to wittdiversity@wittenberg.edu as space for lunch is limited to 10 students.

On Thursday, Feb. 8, Chad Sloss, a sociology scholar, practitioner, and researcher specializing in education, culture, and conflict analysis, will delve into "Hip Hop: The Creation of Culture,” at 2:30 p.m. in Ness Auditorium. Jamaal Durr, a contemporary artist known for his figurative mixed media works and portrait drawings, will then speak on “Fear, Belonging, and Being a Black Millennial Artist,” on Tuesday, Feb. 13, at 2:30 p.m. at the Koch Hall Auditorium. His work has been exhibited at several galleries, including The Contemporary Dayton, ADC Fine Art Gallery in Cincinnati, the Columbus Cultural Arts Center, and the Springfield Museum of Art, where he also has a seat on the Curatorial Affairs Committee. Students interested in art and entrepreneurship are also encouraged to attend a lunch with Durr from 12:30 to 2 p.m. To reserve a spot, reach out to wittdiversity@wittenberg.edu as space for lunch is limited to 10 students.

Further into the month, Howard Washington, founder and creative director of Dance Elevated Studio in Independence, Ohio, who specializes in choreography will present a dialogue and mini-dance workshop “Elevating the Creative in You,” on Monday, Feb. 19, at Chakeres Memorial Theatre on campus. The dialogue will begin at 9 a.m. followed by the mini-dance workshop with a live DJ at 10 a.m. Lastly, wrapping up the series on Tuesday, March 19, will be Kent Brooks, professor of religious and spiritual life at Northwestern University, who will discuss “Black Musical History: Blurring the Sacred vs. Secular Line,” at 2:30 p.m. in the Koch Hall Auditorium. Brooks previously taught voice, conducted the Imani Gospel Choir, and served as chapel organist at Wittenberg.

“This series promises to be a unique opportunity for the community to engage with these outstanding speakers, gain fresh perspectives, and celebrate the richness of African American contributions to the arts,” Bailey added.

Series sponsors include Wittenberg’s Diversity Advisory Committee (DAC), the William McClain Center for Diversity, African and Diaspora Studies, the Margaret Ermarth Institute for the Public Humanities, the Honors Program, Build A Better Wittenberg, the Faculty Programming Board, and the Departments of Art, English, History, Music, and Philosophy & Religion.

Another big event that Wittenberg is excited to be hosting in February will be the return of Step Afrika! Founded in 1994 as the first professional company dedicated to the tradition of stepping, Step Afrika! will dance into Springfield for a concert at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 7, at Wittenberg’s 1929 Gym, part of the Health, Wellness, & Athletics Complex. Back by popular demand, the group’s first campus appearance took place during the 2019-2020 Wittenberg Series.

A group of energetic performances that integrate percussive dance and African traditional dance with songs, storytelling, humor, and audience participation, Step Afrika!’s tradition of stepping has historic roots in South Africa and is like gumboot dance, which was developed by South African miners who were forbidden to use drums. In the United States, stepping arose in the early 1900s from dance rituals popular among Black fraternities and sororities. Step Afrika!’s repertoire includes shows that incorporate both traditions, as well as contemporary interpretations of stepping and experimental multimedia pieces.

Next up and billed as the hottest dance show in the Midwest, “Dance, Stomp, Shake” is back again. This year’s event will take place at the Dayton Masonic Center, located at 525 W. Riverview Drive, Dayton, on Sunday, Feb. 18, beginning at 3 p.m. The McClain Center for Diversity and Build A Better Wittenberg will be sponsoring a bus trip to and from the event. Interested students should reach out to wittdiversity@wittenberg.edu as space is limited to 50 seats. The bus will leave at 1:30 p.m. and is free to Wittenberg students who sign up.

This dance competition event is geared specifically, but not exclusively, toward Black youth and families to celebrate the diversity of creative excellence and expression. It purposely coincides with Black History Month since it focuses primarily on hip-hop, a style of dance that traces its origins back to New York City's black community in the 1960s and 1970s.

“Dance, Stomp, Shake” first began in 2019 when members of Wittenberg's Concerned Black Students (CBS) approached Professor Bailey about putting on a dance show. This first show, produced in 2020, was met with success and enthusiasm from the Springfield community and youth dancers in the Midwest. The program took a break in 2021 due to COVID-19, during which time it began to grow beyond its origins as a CBS project into a more community-driven event. Wittenberg students, however, remain vital to its planning, marketing, and execution.

This year’s dance competition features 14 hip hop and majorette teams from two states and seven cities vying for $4,500 in cash.  For more information on any of the “Dance, Stomp, Shake” events, check out @dancestompshake on Instagram and Facebook.

Rounding out the month of February will be the Queer Documentary Series’ feature “Tongues Untied.” This event is free and open to current Wittenberg students and will take place at 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 20, in Kissell Auditorium. A panel discussion will follow. For a complete listing, click here.

During Black History Month, the Library of Congress, National Archives and Records Administration, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution, and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum join in paying tribute to the generations of African Americans who struggled with adversity to achieve full citizenship in American society. To learn more about Black History Month, check out the following links:

About Black History Month
Also known as African American History Month, the event grew out of “Negro History Week,” the brainchild of noted historian Carter G. Woodson and other prominent African Americans. Since 1976, every U.S. president has officially designated the month of February as Black History Month. Other countries around the world, including Canada and the United Kingdom, also devote a month to celebrating Black history. Source: History.com

Cindy Holbrook
Cindy Holbrook
Senior Communications Assistant

About Wittenberg

Wittenberg's curriculum has centered on the liberal arts as an education that develops the individual's capacity to think, read, and communicate with precision, understanding, and imagination. We are dedicated to active, engaged learning in the core disciplines of the arts and sciences and in pre-professional education grounded in the liberal arts. Known for the quality of our faculty and their teaching, Wittenberg has more Ohio Professors of the Year than any four-year institution in the state. The university has also been recognized nationally for excellence in community service, sustainability, and intercollegiate athletics. Located among the beautiful rolling hills and hollows of Springfield, Ohio, Wittenberg offers more than 100 majors, minors and special programs, enviable student-faculty research opportunities, a unique student success center, service and study options close to home and abroad, a stellar athletics tradition, and successful career preparation.

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