Each year during the month of February, millions of people come together to celebrate the annual commemoration of Black History Month. During the twenty-eight days, we celebrate the history, heart, and happenings that make up the foundation of Black history.
In Lynchburg, the Black community thrives and reminds members of the area to celebrate their legacy not only this month, but always.
At the Academy, we are honored to house all people of color as they continue to grace our stages, venues, and organization with an outstanding amount of talent and pride. This month, we will be hosting various performances, events, classes, camps, and more in celebration of Black History Month 2022.
We kicked off the month with First Fridays February, featuring artwork and live music from a few extremely talented black artists!
In The Ann White Gallery, Eric Kjeseth’s exhibition “Never Forget the Angels” showed a variety of Mixed Media Paintings, where Nakila White presented “Its Behind the Eyes” – Charcoal Drawings in The Up Front Gallery.
“My artwork is a beautiful way that I can express myself while being able to be understood by everyone no matter gender, age or race,” says Nakila White. “There is more to people than what you just see on the surface, take a moment to open the windows of their soul and see what really lies within.”
Instrumentalist Trevor Hicks played his saxophone as patrons gathered in the Academy galleries to browse various art pieces created by Eric and Nakila.
Another vital person who planted seeds in the ever-growing Academy and Lynchburg community is Josephine Baker. Josephine Baker lit a significant spark that helped ignite the history of Black women and people everywhere, spanning decades after her birth in 1906 in the city of St. Louis, Missouri. After years of dreaming of making it in the entertainment world and a difficult upbringing in her childhood home, Josephine made the trek to New York City at the young age of thirteen years old.
Here, in the midst of the Harlem Renaissance, she ended up performing at the Plantation Club, resulting in the achievement of earning a spot in the chorus line in the touring production of one of today’s most beloved musicals, Shuffle Along.
Shuffle Along by Eubie Blake was the first show to integrate Broadway and even graced the Historic Academy Theatre stage during their 1920s tour! Josephine Baker now hangs proudly in our Hall of Legends today and forever serves as an iconic French entertainer, a civil rights activist, a French Resistance agent, and one of the most important parts of our history – at the Academy and in the entire world.
“Baker represents bravery in the face of oppression,” says Academy Executive Director, Geoffrey Kershner. “When she experienced Jim Crow laws when performing in Shuffle Along, she rose above. She didn’t accept the racism she encountered because she knew she was better than the treatment she received, she knew she had more value. All of us should aspire to believe in ourselves at this level, not accepting how others define us,” he concludes.
To honor her and her legacy, the Academy is collaborating with Jennifer Petticolas in presenting a FREE event: “A Tribute to Josephine Baker” on February 17, 2022 at 7:30 PM in the Historic Academy Theatre.
The event features community artists and allies, including our Artist in Residence, Nick George. They will help us present an artistic and introspective look into the life of Josephine Baker through song, dance and poetry. In addition, this evening will feature a one-act play written by Jennifer Petticolas titled, Harriet and Josephine: Differently Alike.
In collaboration with the YWCA of Central Virginia, the Academy will be hosting another FREE event: “Raise the Vibrations & Voices” in the Historic Academy Theatre! Join us on February 18, 2022 at 7:30 PM.
This production will feature a powerful collection of performances in varying styles of expression, including dance pieces. It will incorporate the newly released production of “Voices” from the V-Day organization, a compilation of monologues and poems written by women of color to help raise voices towards ending violence against women.
These orations were collected worldwide and give women in our community a creative platform to speak out against the inequities in their gender in hopes of empowering all women to end violence and racism.
A Word From Academy Director of Programs, Michelline Hall:
“During this month there are celebrations happening all over our campus and beyond. Black History Month is so important because it allows us to celebrate the culture, triumphs, and contributions of Americans that may not have been recognized fully in their time. Individuals who were responsible for breaking down barriers and building bridges for the generations that have come after them. Art is a pure form that allows people to connect beyond generation, time, race, gender identity and other things that can define or separate us. Artists are the people who can transcend time and space by tapping into the soul of humanity, create a new piece and then share it with the rest of us to enjoy and ponder. The arts allow us to process, analyze and perceive our experiences in a manner that reminds us how we are all connected in the human experience. In this time of up to the second media, it is important to take intentional time to remember where we have come from as a whole, celebrate where we are now thanks to the foundation of others, and become galvanized in our commitment in creating an even stronger and inclusive community.”
Black History Month Classes/Camps