The theme of Rise and Shine will tie this month’s series of cultural events together.
The press conference held at City Hall last Tuesday morning opened with a tall man, clad in glasses and a tie, bursting into a rap performance in front of an astonished audience—the 2016 program for Black History Month was being unveiled.
Following an homage to Jean Doré—the ex-mayor of Montreal under whom Black History Month emerged—the prolific upcoming events were announced. Doré, who was mayor from 1986 to 1994, passed away last summer. Many of the numerous activities planned for this year’s edition converge toward the exploration of black heritage, culture and identity, and their celebration in a modern context. The omnipresence of cultural events isn’t mere coincidence as far as Michael Farkas, the president of Black History Month, is concerned. “That’s what we do best!” he said about next month’s artistic performances.
One such artistic performance came from Aly Ndiaye, also known as Webster, who is the hip-hop activist who performed the astonishing inauguration song at the press conference. “I’m using hip-hop as a medium to talk about history. There’s no conventions or censorship within rap; it’s a political tool,” said Webster.
Twelve muses from Canadian music history will be celebrated for the 25th anniversary of the round table at Black History Month, which aims to produce a program that highlights social, economic, cultural, institutional and educational issues related to the black community.
Three spokespeople were chosen for this year’s edition, including Webster and Eddie King. Ranee Lee, one of the most popular Canadian jazz singers, was chosen as the second spokesperson for the event. After a prolific career in jazz education, Lee is well-qualified to talk about the strong link that can be found between history and music. “It’s a tool that can acknowledge our community,” Lee said about art as a whole.
Dr. Carter G. Woodson was the instigator of the Negro History Week in 1926. He had the ambition to see African history included in the school’s educational programs.
His scientific analysis of the black community’s contribution to history led to the dawn of Black History Month. By taking over his legacy, Lee and Webster are showing art to be a vector of social activism for the 25th edition of this event. Here are some of the activities and productions that you won’t want to miss this month…
BLAXPO at Elevation and Co.
February will be the month devoted to diversity with the kick-off of the 25th edition of Black History Month in Montreal. The tone will be set this Jan. 30 and Jan. 31 with the BLAXPO exhibit on Canadian black culture through commerce, art and conversation at Elevation and Co.
Honour Before Glory at the McCord Museum
Anthony Sherwood’s Honor Before Glory will be screened on Feb. 7 at the McCord Museum in the presence of the film’s director. This docudrama, which won the second prize at the Hollywood Black Film Festival in Los Angeles, depicts World War I’s all-black military battalion in Canada.
Black Muses at Place-des-Arts
As another flagship activity, the free Black Muses exhibit will be held from Feb. 5 to Feb. 28 at the Espace culturel Georges-Émile-Lapalme at Place des Arts.
Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution at Theatre Hall, Concordia University
Concordia University is hosting a documentary with a rare focus on the Black Panthers social movement on Feb. 27. Selected at the 2015 Sundance festival, the event will be followed by a Q&A with the director, Stanley Nelson, via Skype.
Race at the Duceppe Theatre
Directed by Martine Beaulne and written by David Mamet, the play Race comes as a special and long-awaited event running from Feb. 17 to March 26 at the Duceppe Theatre. The defence of a white man after he raped an African-American woman becomes a matter of debate for two lawyers, one black and one white.
Montreal Black History Month comes as a timely event with the current boycott of the Oscars for a poor selection of black actors, denounced on Twitter under the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite. The controversy resonates through Ranee Lee’s speech on the event’s ability to raise awareness on racial inequalities. “Black History Month is every day for us,” she said on the online video.
For more info on the Black History Month visit moishistoiredesnoirs.com/en/.