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Celebrating Black History

Free campus events include talks, film screenings, exhibitions, concert and more

EVANSTON, Ill. --- A Jan. 24 festival providing a glimpse of African, Caribbean and African-American culture, free food and entertainment will launch Northwestern University’s 2014 Black History Month. 

The six-week Evanston campus celebration honors the struggles, triumphs and contributions to American society by citizens of African descent. It concludes March 5 with the Annual Leon Forrest Lecture featuring award-wining playwright and Northwestern alumna Lydia Diamond. Diamond’s works include “The Bluest Eye,” an adaptation of Toni Morrison’s novel.

Other celebration highlights include a Jan. 27 keynote address by Myrlie Evers-Williams, the widow of slain civil rights activist Medgar Evers, during the University’s official observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day; a Jan. 30 film screening of a documentary about Muhammad Ali at the Block Museum; a Feb. 9 performance of Joseph Schwantner’s “New Morning for the World,” based on the texts of Martin Luther King Jr.

The following events are free, unless otherwise noted, and open to the Northwestern community and the general public. They have been coordinated by Northwestern’s department of African American Student Affairs. For a complete listing of Black History Month 2014 events, visit Multicultural Student Affairs.

On the Chicago campus, the Black Law Students Association will host noon-time talks, a panel discussion and Soul Food lunch the week of Feb. 17-21.

Evanston campus 

Harambee, 6 p.m. Friday, Jan. 24, Louis Room, Norris University Center, 1999 Campus Drive. The official kick-off of Black History Month will feature free food, song, dance and a glimpse of African, Caribbean and African-American culture. Recipients of the Gardner/Exum Scholarship will also be announced. Harambee -- a Swahili word that means “pull together” -- is sponsored by African American Student Affairs and For Members Only: Northwestern University’s Black Student Alliance.

Northwestern University’s Observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day featuring keynote speaker Myrlie Evers-Williams, 6 p.m. Monday, Jan. 27, Pick-Staiger Concert Hall, 50 Arts Circle Drive. Civil rights activist Evers-Williams is an author and former chairperson of the NAACP. The widow of slain civil rights activist Medgar Evers, she was the first laywoman to give an invocation at a presidential inauguration. The program will include jazz and choral performances by Northwestern student groups. For more information, including a full list of events celebrating King’s life, visit the calendar of events.

“The Trials of Muhammad Ali,” film screening and talkback, 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 30, Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, 40 Arts Circle Drive. Co-sponsored by Inspire Media and For Members Only: Northwestern Black Student Alliance, this unconventional sports documentary explores Ali’s life outside the fight ring. The film focuses on his humanitarian work, refusal to serve in the Vietnam War and decision to join the Nation of Islam. A talkback with one of the film’s directors will follow the screening. 

Alice Millar Birthday Concert: 50th Anniversary Celebration, 7 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 9, Alice Millar Chapel, 1870 Sheridan Road. The 50th anniversary concert will feature Louis Vierne’s “Marche Triomphale” for brass, timpani and organ; Joseph Schwantner’s “New Morning for the World,” based on texts by Martin Luther King Jr., and narrated by Rodrick Dixon; and the world premiere of Schwantner’s “Chapel Music: Five Diverse Songs for Chorus and Orchestra.” Performers include the Alice Millar Chapel Choir conducted by Stephen Alltop; University Singers conducted by Emily Ellsworth; Northwestern University Symphony Orchestra; and organist Eric Budzynski. A goodwill offering will be collected at the door.

“Bittersweet Harvest: The Bracero Program, 1942-1964” exhibition, Feb. 15 through April 1, Dittmar Memorial Gallery, Norris University Center, 1999 Campus Drive. Currently on a national tour, this exhibition explores the little-known story of the Bracero Program, the largest guest worker program in U.S. history. The public is invited to attend the exhibit’s free opening reception from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 20, at the gallery.

“Good Hair,” film screening and discussion, 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 20, McCormick Auditorium, Norris University Center, 1999 Campus Drive. The screening of Chris Rock’s 2009 documentary “Good Hair” will be immediately followed by a discussion on Western and American concepts of beauty and the ways in which all women are portrayed in today’s media. The event is sponsored by the Social Justice Committee of Norris University Center.

Introduction to the “New Americans” exhibition preview, Feb. 24 to Feb. 28, NU Galleria, ground floor, Norris University Center, 1999 Campus Drive. See a special preview of Jason Patterson’s upcoming exhibit, “New Americans: Our Mutual Elevation and Social Improvement,” running from April 4 through May 11 at the Dittmar Memorial Gallery, on Norris Center’s first floor. The preview will feature photos of African-American portraits rendered after 19th century tintypes, daguerreotypes and ambrotypes that reflect cultural, political, social and historical themes.

“From Braceros to Civil Rights: The World of Cesar Chavez,” 5 to 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 27, Harris Hall, Room 108, 1881 Sheridan Road. Tracing the last years of the Bracero Program and the rise of a new farm worker movement in rural California after 1965, Stephen Pitti, professor of history and American studies at Yale University, will explore how activists debated the rights of Mexican field workers, sparking new cultural and institutional activism. The event is sponsored by Northwestern’s Latina and Latino Studies Program.

A Conversation with Alex Kotlowitz and Ta-Nehisi Coates, senior editor of The Atlantic, 6 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 27, first floor auditorium Annie May Swift Hall, 1920 Campus Drive. Kotlowitz, Northwestern’s Center for the Writing Arts Writer-in-Residence, will talk with Coates, author of the memoir “The Beautiful Struggle.” The event is sponsored by the Center for the Writing Arts.

Annual Leon Forrest Lecture featuring Lydia Diamond, 4:30 p.m.  Wednesday, March 5, Harris Hall, Room 107, 1881 Sheridan Road. This yearly lecture honors Forrest, an acclaimed novelist and scholar who taught at Northwestern for more than two decades. Lydia Diamond is an award-winning playwright and Northwestern alumna. Her works include “Voyeurs de Venus,” “Broadway’s Stick Fly,” and “The Bluest Eye,” an adaptation of Toni Morrison’s novel of the same title. For information, visit The event is sponsored by Northwestern’s department of African American Studies, Weinberg College’s Office of the Dean and the Northwestern University Black Alumni Association.

For more Evanston campus information, visit Multicultural Student Affairs.

Chicago campus

The Black Law Students Association will host the following Black History Month events on Northwestern’s Chicago campus. Open to the public, they are free, unless noted.

“Do Elite Law Schools Reproduce Racism? An Examination of the Racial Structure of Elite Law Schools, noon to 1:15 p.m. Monday, Feb. 17, Arthur Rubloff Building, Room 150, 375 E. Chicago Ave., Chicago campus. Law schools serve as gateway institutions into one of the most politically powerful social fields: the profession of law. There is also a growing tendency to view our major institutions in the United States as being more racially inclusive and less racist. A talk by sociologist, critical race theorist and lawyer Wendy Leo Moore, associate professor at Texas A&M University, will focus on how racial structures, racialized everyday practices and racial discourses actually function in law schools. 

“Many Paths in the Law: A Black Perspective” panel discussion, noon to 1:15 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 18, Arthur Rubloff Building, Room 150. Among other topics, panelists will discuss their career paths and challenges they face as persons of color navigating the legal profession. They will share advice with current law students and field questions from audience members. Panelists will include United States District Court Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman; Administrative Law Judge Bennie Martin, a Northwestern alumnus; alumnus Joseph Q. McCoy, a partner with Bryan Cave LLP; and Bernard Gugar, general counsel for Harpo Studios.  

Soul Food Lunch, noon to 1:15 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 19, Arthur Rubloff Building, lower atrium. The Black Law Students Association will host its annual soul food lunch. Menu will include fried chicken, greens, macaroni and cheese, peach cobbler and cornbread. Cost is $5 per plate. Proceeds will go toward the Ann Prepare Lavni organization, whose mission is: “to make multilingual education available to the children in periphery regions of Haiti.” 

Chicago Public Schools: Moving from Zero-Tolerance to Restorative Justice,” noon to 1:15 p.m. Friday, Feb. 21, Rubloff Building, Room 180. In recent decades, courts, communities and schools are returning to restorative methods to address family issues such as child guardianship; escalating violence in our schools and streets; reintegrating prisoners into their communities; making decisions about appropriate sentencing; and investigating the role of victims in the process. In each context, the same issues must be addressed: Who is involved? What are the needs of the parties? And what can be done to resolve the issues at hand? Speaker Robert A. Spicer, culture and climate specialist for Fenger High School, will discuss restorative justice in the context of zero tolerance policies in Chicago Public Schools.