When the nationally known Winston-Salem State University Burke Singers lift their voices to open the 12th Annual African American Cultural Celebration, the female a capella group will captivate visitors at the N.C. Museum of History in Raleigh. The outstanding quality and variety of more than 75 presenters will astound attendees at this free festival on Saturday, Jan. 26, from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Award-winning musicians, actors, filmmakers and writers will join dancers, re-enactors, craftspeople and other presenters to celebrate North Carolina’s diverse African American heritage and culture — in a big way. This statewide kickoff to Black History Month in February is one of the museum’s largest yearly events. The festival will have fun and educational activities for all ages.
This year’s theme, Defining Freedom, honors the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, which was signed in 1863. Learn about this life-changing document from several presenters, such as children’s author Kelly Starling Lyons, who will discuss her forthcoming book Hope’s Gift; Dianne Pledger from the N.C. Freedom Monument Park Project; and others.
From performances of African rhythm and dance by Aya Shabu to the R&B, pop, blues and boogie-woogie sounds of the Vibe Band, the African American Cultural Celebration will be chock-full of entertainment. Engaging presentations range from Chef Kabui’s cooking demonstration to a panel discussion with members of the N.C. Writers Network. And there’s plenty for kids: a scavenger hunt, hands-on crafts, and more.
The African American Cultural Celebration will be presented in six categories that encompass culture and history. Several event highlights follow. For a complete schedule of all performances and presentations, go to ncmuseumofhistory.org.
Celebrate Music and Movement
Catch performances by musicians and dancers:
● Cyrus Art Productions, presenting the modern dance piece Middle Passage;
● Stanley Baird, jazz musician focusing on North Carolina jazz composers;
● Winifred Garrett, principal harpist for the Fayetteville Symphony Orchestra, who played at Whitney Houston’s wedding and has performed with Steve Wonder and Marvin Gaye;
● Mary Williams, vocalist and Afro American historian studies performer, whose voice is featured on the movie soundtrack “Blood Done Sign My Name”; and
● April C. Turner, singer and actress, who co-starred in the movie “Other Voices, Other Rooms” and has appeared in television movies and programs.
Celebrate History, Drama and Film
Learn about African American life from these individuals and groups:
● Dante James, Emmy Award-winning filmmaker, showing his short film “The Doll,” based on a story by Charles W. Chesnutt;
● Alexis Gumbs, author and black feminist activist, discussing a project about Pauli Murray, a Durham native who was a champion for civil and human rights; and
● Yolanda Rabun, singing excerpts from Howard Craft’s one-act play Nina Simone … What More Can I Say?
Celebrate Literature and the Spoken Word
Hear from authors and storytellers who will share their expertise:
● Zelda Lockhart, author and poet, leading a panel discussion with three members of the N.C. Writers Network;
● authors Carol Kenney and Michele Bowen, engaging in a discussion about literature in African American churches; and
● storytellers from the N.C. Association of Black Storytellers.
Celebrate Craft and Arts Traditions
Watch these artisans and others at work:
● milliner Betty Williams, sweetgrass basketmaker Kisha Rawlinson, and wire artist Jonathan Daniel;
● the Ebony Raleigh Area Group Stitchers and the African American Quilt Circle; and
● Marilyn Griffin, demonstrating how she makes dolls, some of which represent important African American figures in state and national history, and displaying her collection.
Celebrate Food and Health
Learn about cooking and healthy living:
● Chef Kabui, presenting cooking demonstrations and tastings about the connections between African cuisine and African American cuisine;
● food historian Michael Twitty, presenting a cooking demonstration, discussing the African roots of American foodways, and reflecting on his Southern Discomfort Tour, which he chronicled on his blog;
● Rhonda Muhammad, featuring cooking demonstrations of traditional foods; and
● Kessonga Giscombe, an acupuncturist.
Celebrate Education and Heritage
Get information about historic sites, museums and organizations across North Carolina:
● representatives from the Montford Point Marines Museum, N.C. Freedom Monument Park Project, the N.C. African American Heritage Commission, and many more.
Mark your calendar for this educational and fun-filled festival at the N.C. Museum of History on Jan. 26.
The celebration is supported by the N.C. African American Heritage Commission; the N.C. Museum of History Associates; the Raleigh Arts Commission; and the United Arts Council of Raleigh and Wake County, with funds from the United Arts campaign as well as the N.C. Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts, which believes a great nation deserves great art.
For more information about the N.C. Museum of History, call 919-807-7900 or access ncmuseumofhistory.org or Facebook.