Black:Higher – Experience A Different ‘BLACK’

February 27th, 2011 marked the end of the first part of the [Black:Higher] Black Spring event. In my opinion, it was very successful.

After several years of, sometimes planning and other times being a part of many Black History Month celebrations, I decided that personally I needed a little bit more than just a big event in February to mark Black Heritage.

I am not just Black only in February, but will remain Black till I die. So celebrating our milestones and past need not be a ‘February thing’ alone.

I wanted something that involved the contribution and growth of everyone involved, instead of a ‘program of events’.

Thus, one cold January evening, while I was watching my always ‘muted’ television, my mind’s spark light went off:

READ!!!!!!!!!
Oh! and READ with other people, who like you are too busy to do it alone.

‘How about space and cost involved?’, my mind asked.

Spark Answer: Do it in your home.

BRILLIANT! I thought. I did not need to pay for space, decoration, stage managers or event planners. I would have no fears about not taking a loss if the event was not well attended. But most importantly, I was in my home. I could always busy myself with sleep if people did not show up. BINGO! I had found the perfect and most impacting idea.

Earlier in January, I had bought this huge collection of black related books, formerly owned by the late African American Historian and Film maker, Gene A Davis (Creator of ‘you give us 22 minutes, we’ll give you the world and PBS’s Images and Realities series). I used these books to create my personally priced ‘Black Library’.

(The photo is a laptop shot of part of my ‘Black Library’. On the wall are pictures of beautiful African women from different African Countries. Also, an Obama picture hangs on the wall to the right of the door).

Being extremely involved in several things at the same time, it had been very difficult to read as much as I wanted to. So in seeking ways to read more, my idea for a unique Black History Month Celebration was conceived.

Then, I needed a theme.

Defy the ‘BLACK-MEN-DON’T-READ’ stereotypes while educating my mind.

So in an effort to flout the derogatory cliche’, “Most black men lack the wisdom to find the treasures hidden in a closed book“, I decided that one unique way of celebrating 2011 Black Heritage and History was to COLLECTIVELY read to educate, entertain and enlighten our community through Black Literature. Our readings will then precede discussions that explore and relate book themes to current day affairs affecting our community.

Thus, [Black:Higher] Black Spring was born.

[Black:Higher] Black:Spring is an Exploration and Celebration of Black Life, Struggles and History that runs from February to June. It is a two part Book-Reading Series described below:

1.) Black:Higher – This was a 21-day daily reading of selected African-American history books, celebrating our struggles, achievements, history and heritage through literature. This was in commemoration of Black History Month, spanning Feb 7-27. The goal was to mingle, network and appreciate talents, while finding time to read as a group. We discussed themes, problems and solutions in each book in relation to the current day affairs of African American life. Sessions involved an intimate group of up to 20 people.

Books that we read include:
Mondays (5 – 9pm): Black Rage by William H Grier, Price M. Cobbs
Tuesdays (12 – 4pm): Up From Slavery by Booker T. Washington
Wednesdays (5 – 9pm): Even The Stars Look Lonesome by Maya Angelou
Thursdays (7pm – 11pm): Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned, by Walter Mosley
Fridays (6 – 12am)/Performance: Racism 101 by Nikki Giovanni
Saturdays (8pm – 12am) with Spoken Word Performance: Water From The Well by Myra McLarey
Sundays (7 – 11pm)/Performance & African Cuisine Feasting: Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

We concluded the Black:Higher part of the series on Sunday February 27th, 2011. Fridays and Sundays were the most populated days. (I guess the food played a huge role in Sunday’s attendance). However, WE HAD TONS OF FUN.

In my opinion, ‘Black Rage’ is a must READ.

The beautiful thing about Black:Higher and this initiative was:
a. To help us understand, but most importantly appreciate our journey as a people.
b. To talk about the issues and setbacks affecting our people
c. To promote individual and communal LOVE
d. To reevaluate our values in order to effectively become relevant ‘Griots’ (an oral historian or a member of a caste responsible for maintaining an oral record of tribal history in the form of music, poetry, and storytelling) that will pass down the mantle of pride and kingship to our succeeding generations
e. To understand that ‘BLACK’ goes beyond the color of skin because it is the origin of man, and thus transcends discrimination of all sorts from ethnicity, gender, orientation, opinions, racism, hatred,  bigotry etc.

BLACK IS A HIGHER LEVEL OF EXISTENCE!

There was truly so much that came of out Black:HIGHER that has made me a better citizen of the world. The points of view that graced the event enlightened me even more.

We were Black. We were White. We were Asian. We were Hispanic. We were Men. We were Women. And there was the Genderqueer. But we were all people who had a collective Voice.

A ‘Voice’ that we fashioned, incorporated humanity.

Sometimes we disagreed, but we respected, interacted and fellowshipped with each other like we were all cut from the same fabric. Some cooked, some bought drinks and cookies and some brought their happy hungry ‘potbellys’ to enjoy from the same bowls of Nigerian delicacies.

It was FUN, and I’d do it all over again.

2.) Black Spring: Black Spring is a follow up weekend series throughout the Spring of 2011 (March – June). Once again, we will be exploring different black experiences and cultures; from African, to Afro-Latino, Afro-Caribbean, Afro-European, Afro-Asian, and Afro-American history and heritage. (More details about this to follow).

Challenge: In fact I challenge homes across the Nation and world to start something of this nature. As I learned from the Black:Higher experience, (from opening my home to friends, colleagues, students, strangers and all), it builds relationships; trust; enlightens and educates; as well as presents a platform for relevant dialogue.

Over the next few posts, I’d explore some of the themes from the books we read, and present questions and quotes that came up during Black:Higher. Please come back to find out about the event, or better still subscribe to the blog to get all updates. Also, feel free to participate in our discussions with your comments, inquiries and relevant feedback.

Also feel free to check out my other outlets:

Re:WORD Blog

Re:LIFE Inc’s Blog

Thank you for patiently reading this. Don’t forget to share your thoughts with me.

Sincerely,
Chike Ukaegbu
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