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The Lookout | August 13, 2020

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Artists recap 400 years of black history

Artists recap 400 years of black history
  • On December 5, 2019

By Robin Morales
Associate Editor

The thundering sound of hand drums filled Dart Auditorium Dec. 3 to begin the final celebratory event, “Trials, Triumphs and Trailblazers,” in LCC’s recognition of the “400 years of African-American History Commission Act.”

The concert incorporated several different mediums of artistic expression, including spoken word poetry, song, dance and dramatizations, to highlight social conditions during four distinct eras of history.

According to Melissa Kaplan, one of the principal event coordinators, those “pillars” are slavery, the Civil War, Jim Crow and the Civil Rights movement.

“Some of the dance … is an absolute joy of celebration of African culture and the African experience and African identity,” Kaplan said. “Some of it is filled with grief and sorrow and pain.

“The arts express emotion in a way that a conversation isn’t always possible to do. The arts can break through people’s preconceived notions.”

The award winning choir from Pam’s Academy of Champions in Lansing, performed a few songs acapella to a standing ovation. The dominantly-black private elementary school has been involved in LCC’s commemoratory events of the past year, “since the very beginning,” according to the school’s director, Pam Eaton-Champion.

“It’s not studied enough,” Eaton-Champion said. “People do not know enough about the contributions that African-Americans have made to the United States, and that it’s been for 400 years.”

LCC student Ny’Kieria Blocker, who performed in “Sunset Baby,” sang Nina Simone’s interpretation of the song “Strange Fruit” during the slavery segment. The song’s lyrics deal with themes of violence and lynching.

“Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze / Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees,” she sang.

To begin the Civil War segment, LCC student James Henson performed a solo interpretive dance to the song “Stand Up” by Cynthia Erivo. As part of the performance, Henson’s back was painted red to depict the remnants of whip lashings.

The event concluded with statements from LCC Chief of Diversity Officer Dr. Tonya Bailey, LCC Trustee Angela Mathews and Lansing Mayor Andy Schor, delivered by a spokesperson.

LCC began celebrating 400 years of African-American history this past Feb. 28 with the unveiling of the Malcolm X painting in the Gannon Building.

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