Black History and Me

In the United States Black History month is celebrated the month of February and focuses on the historical contributions of African Americans to the making and sustaining of U.S. life.  In the UK Black History month is celebrated the month of October, this celebration recognizes the contributions of all persons of non-white racial heritage (including white/other biracial mixes) to British society.  Having spent many years in the United States in which I encountered the diverse and vibrant ways in which  Black History month long celebration is taken up in that society, in the UK, I constantly (at times consciously) comparing the difference in the tone and temperament of the celebrations.  From my experience, and I emphasis here my experience, celebrations in the UK shy away from the African Diaspora productive and dynamic contributions to the society and focus instead on those who fall into the category of politically Black (persons from South and East Asia, the Middle East, and elsewhere).   During my four year, and counting, in the UK, wherever I am I have organized some type of collective celebration of persons of the African Diaspora.   For October 2013 UK Black History month I spent time in a personal celebration/reflection on African Diaspora history by taking time out to recognize the year-long celebration of the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s I Have a Dream speech.  Although initially envisioned as a afternoon workshop in which a group of dancers of the African Diaspora (from Africa, the Caribbean, Canada, and Europe) gathered to  engage in critical movement discussions around the speech and the ways in which the speech has impacted their country, community, family, and themselves, my travel schedule prohibitive to proper organization.   So instead, on the 31st of October, after sending off a round of last minute invitations, I went to the dance studio with speech in hand and spent three hours in a series of movement conversations with the language and tone of the speech, my personal memories of ways in which the I Have a Dream speech impacted my life, and with what I imagined to be my response to the speech today.  The speech has been a touchstone in my journey from youth to adult, and in 1997 I choreographed Far Away Places in collaboration with Atlanta-based percussionist Gerard Reid and excerpts from Sweet Honey in the Rocks’ Letter to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  ( Far Away Places was originally performed by the Georgia State University Movement Force Dance company and a gift to a then retiring colleague and friend.   It was also the first installment in a (thus far) 17-year lamentation on the speech that has taken the form of movement and verse.  In celebration of U.S. Black History month, during February, share some of my  reflections on/conversation with  I Have a Dream.

Copyright © 2014 Carol Marie Webster, All Rights Reserved