Throughout February 2016 Stony Brook University will host Black History Month, an annual tradition that celebrates the African American experience. The Black History Month Opening Ceremony kicks things off on Wednesday, January 27, from 1 pm to 2:30 pm in the Student Activities Center, Sidney Gelber Auditorium. The guest speakers are Professor Sonia Sanchez, Dr. John H. Bracey, Jr., and Dr. James E. Smethurst, co-editors of SOS – Calling All Black People: A Black Arts Movement Reader (2014), a history of the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s and 1970s. The book depicts the works of the politically motivated Black poets, artists, dramatists, musicians and writers who emerged in the wake of the Black Power Movement.
Educational, social and cultural programs will reflect the month’s theme, Sankofa! Together We Will Rise. The concept of Sankofa has its origin in Ghana, West Africa. When literally translated, it means that “it is not taboo to go back and fetch what you forgot.” Sankofa is used throughout the pan-African world to promote the idea that African people must go back to their roots in order to move forward. The theme Sankofa! Together We Will Rise was created to foster unity within the diverse Diaspora of African American/Black community at Stony Brook University.
Don’t miss the Black History Month Unity Forum on February 10 and the Black History Month Spoken Word Contest on February 17. Activities culminate on February 24 with the Black History Month Closing Program. All events are open to the Stony Brook University community and their guests. For the complete calendar of events, visit the Black History Month website.
Opening Ceremony Speakers
Sonia Sanchez is a poet, educator and lecturer on Black Culture and Literature, Women’s Liberation and Racial Justice. Sanchez has authored more than 16 books including Homecoming, We a BaddDDD People, Love Poems, I’ve Been a Woman, A Sound Investment and Other Stories, Homegirls and Handgrenades, Under a Soprano Sky, Wounded in the House of a Friend, Does Your House Have Lions?, Like the Singing Coming off the Drums, Shake Loose My Skin, and her most recent, Morning Haiku. She has earned numerous distinguished awards, including the National Endowment for the Arts, the Lucretia Mott Award, the Outstanding Arts Award from the Pennsylvania Coalition of 100 Black Women, and the Langston Hughes Poetry Award. Sanchez is one of 20 African American women featured in “Freedom Sisters,” an interactive exhibition created by the Cincinnati Museum Center and the Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibition. She was the first Presidential Fellow at Temple University, where she held the Laura Carnell Chair in English and is a professor emerita. In addition to being a contributing editor to Black Scholar and The Journal of African Studies, Professor Sanchez has edited an anthology, We Be Word Sorcerers: 25 Stories by Black Americans. BMA: The Sonia Sanchez Literary Review is the first African American Journal that discusses the work of Sonia Sanchez and the Black Arts Movement.
John H. Bracey, Jr., has taught in the W.E.B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst since 1972. He is now serving a second time as department chair and is co-director of the department’s graduate certificate in African Diaspora Studies. His major academic interests are in African American social history, radical ideologies and movements, and the history of African American Women and more recently the interactions between Native Americans and African Americans, and Afro-Latinos in the United States. During the 1960s Professor Bracey was active in the Civil Rights, Black Liberation and other radical movements in Chicago. Since his arrival at UMass he has maintained those interests and commitments both on campus and in the wider world. His publications include several co-edited volumes, include Black Nationalism in America, the prize-winning African American Women and the Vote: 1837-1965, Strangers and Neighbors: Relations between Blacks and Jews in the United States, and African American Mosaic: A Documentary History from the Slave Trade to the Twenty-First Century. Professor Bracey’s scholarship also includes editorial work on the microfilm series Black Studies Research Sources.
James E. Smethurst serves as Professor of Afro-American Studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He is the author of several publications, including 2011’s The African American Roots of Modernism: Reconstruction to the Harlem Renaissance. His scholarly interests include African American literature, culture, and intellectual history from the late 19th to the late 20th centuries, with particular emphasis on Black cultural and political radicalism, 20th-century poetry in English, and gender studies. He is working on a history of the Black Arts Movement in the southern United States. Smethurst received his PhD in English from Harvard University in 1996, MA in English from the City College of New York, and BA in English from the University of Southern Maine.