Black Heritage Month to focus on history

By Brenden Walz

The history and cultural heritage of Africa will be the focus at NIU for this year’s celebration of Black Heritage Month.

The theme for this year’s celebration is “The Afrocentric Mind: Redefining Negritude.”

Van Amos, programming coordinator of Center for Black Studies, said the philosophy of Afrocentricity builds on the basic ground of the philosophy of “negritude,” or blackness.

The philosophy of negritude, Amos said, started mainly from the results of two African students who were studying in London at the time, Leopold Senghor and Aime Cesaire.

Amos said the goal of negritude was to “revitalize the positive aspects of black culture through the arts, representing the essence of blackness.”

Afrocentricity, a philosophy which developed later, “redefined the negritude philosophy by extending its philosophical underpinnings to use in affecting social change,” Amos said.

The Afrocentric movement was led by Molefi Assante, whose philosophy of Afrocentricity focused on the role of African culture in history and on Africa itself.

“Therefore, the idea of Afrocentricity was revitalized by the concept of negritude (blackness),” Amos said.

In keeping with this theme, the center plans to hold events during February to explore this year’s theme.

One event will be an appearance by WGN-TV host Merri Dee on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. in the Holmes Student Center’s Illinois Room. She will lecture on the topic “The Significant Role of Blacks in the Media.”

Black Student Union member Michelle Sullivan said, “Minorities are rapidly getting into the field.

“It’s no longer the white male standard,” she said. “It’s broadening out to minorities and women.”

The month-long celebration began in 1926 as a week-long event by Carter G. Woodson as a way to celebrate the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln and the cultural contributions of African-Americans.

The event developed into a month-long event in 1976 when the Association of African-American Life and History started to develop the event which became Black Heritage Month today.

Among the other people scheduled to appear during February are artist Billie Jean Young, who will perform in the play “Fannie Lou Hamer: This Little Light,” Feb. 11, Reverend George A. Stallings, founder and First Bishop of Imani Temple, Feb. 18, and rap artist KRS-1, who will appear Feb. 21.