SOUTHWEST ORANGE There are plenty of things to celebrate each February — Valentine’s Day and Presidents Day among them — but it’s also a time to focus on recognizing and celebrating the achievements of African Americans throughout U.S. history.
With this in mind, multiple West Orange-area organizations and people have put on events and dedicated their time and efforts to celebrating Black History Month and educating their community on African-American culture, history and accomplishments.
“Ain’-a That Good News!”
For the first time, the choir and orchestra of The Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary, Queen of the Universe, will perform a concert titled “Ain’-a That Good News!” in honor of Black History Month and as part of the Basilica’s 2016-17 concert series.
The concert will feature Robert Ray’s “Gospel Mass,” as well as spirituals and gospel music by William Dawson, Duke Ellington, Moses Hogan, Bobby McFerrin and more.
William Picher, director of music at the Basilica, said the evening will be full of entertainment and spiritual enrichment.
“The shrine is a gorgeous building filled with sacred art, and (attendees) will be listening to sacred music,” Picher said. “One of the purposes of sacred art and sacred music is to lift you up and give you a glimpse into heaven. The first half will be mostly spiritual and a cappella by various composers, and the second half is the music of a gospel mass, accompanied by a rhythm section and two soloists.”
The Basilica performs different concert series each year and previously has held concerts themed for St. Patrick’s Day, Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day and more. When someone suggested a Black History Month concert this year, Picher talked to people who knew the music genres well and they put the program together.
“Black music has a rich American history, going back to the spirituals and blues and jazz — all that stuff came from the black culture, really, and it’s influenced the classical circles, as well,” he said. “This is just a way to highlight that genre of music that we should all be grateful for. It’s great music. We’ve had a ball rehearsing it.”
The concert will be held Sunday, Feb. 19, at 3 p.m. at the Basilica, 8300 Vineland Ave., Orlando. Tickets can be purchased at maryqueenoftheuniverse.org/concerts or by calling (407) 239-6600.
“I find that, especially for a lot of us in the African diaspora who have immigrated here, our culture needs to be passed on to the next generation so they don’t forget where their parents and heritage are from, hence my passion.” — Christy Lynch
For the second year, Nigerian native Christy Lynch has helped Central Florida celebrate African culture with her AfroCentric Orlando event. The family friendly, cultural event took place Feb. 4 at the Rosen JCC.
“Aside from Animal Kingdom, basically at a local level, we don’t have that enrichment whereby people can have more information and see more celebration of that heritage,” Lynch said. “I’m originally from West Africa in Nigeria, so I thought, who else could bring that here if not an immigrant from Africa?”
The annual AfroCentric event includes a lineup of poetry, comedy skits, traditional African music, fashion shows and exotic dances. This year, students from the Shule Adetunde Performing Arts homeschool group — this year’s beneficiary of the event — performed, and an Ethiopian princess graced the audience for a special coffee ceremony.
Additionally, vendors and crafters brought their fares to sell, and guests got to try ethnic delicacies from the Congo, Ethiopia, Nigeria and more.
“I find that, especially for a lot of us in the African diaspora who have immigrated here, our culture needs to be passed on to the next generation so they don’t forget where their parents and heritage are from, hence my passion,” Lynch said. “In Central Florida, we’re a melting pot and I just think that we need to add that (African culture) to the enlightenment of this area of town. Black History Month is a significant time of the year to do that, too.”
Dr. Phillips High School
At DPHS, Black History Month is a monthlong event dedicated to the education and acknowledgement of and respect for black history. Throughout February, the school has put together a calendar of both weekly and recurring events to get students involved.
Each Friday this month, DPHS students are encouraged to wear their black-history attire. The south campus media center is hosting African-American book displays, QR codes for students to scan for more information and a weekly trivia contest.
The school also is hosting a Black History “Soul Food” Luncheon, which consists of chicken, collard greens, yams, macaroni and cheese, dessert and a drink.
Contact Danielle Hendrix at [email protected].