Black History Month 2004

Black History Month Takes Shape at TAMIU this February

The first Texas A&M International University celebration of Black History Month was rather small.

It began in 2002 with two men, Dr. Ezra Engling, professor of Spanish and Craig Jones, then manager of the University Village, organizing a film festival at the Village showing Alex Haley's famous mini-series "Roots." A few attended.

In 2003, a more diverse and structured series of 14 activities, including the library exhibit and an expanded Black Film Series was organized. This was much more successful, and Dr Engling's colleagues in the College of Arts and Sciences presented him with a plaque, acknowledging his efforts.

But this year, after more faculty members and students who became aware of such an attempt readily joined in to help, the national celebration will be presenting a much larger presence on campus. (photo)

Engling announced that starting Feb. 2, members of the community are welcome to join TAMIU for a month-long, free offering of film showings, panel discussions, exhibits, presentations, lectures and mini concerts that illustrate the countless contributions that blacks have made to the United States and the world.

"Black History Month was not previously celebrated in Laredo because in many cases, people didn't know it existed, or what it entailed," Engling said.

But with presentations such as the one Engling did last year on Bob Marley and the artist's work as a reggae activist, people of all ages are gaining interest in the background of one of the largest minority groups in the country.

"There were even a DJ and people from neighboring cities and towns who attended last year and were grateful for the insights they now had into Marley's music," Engling said.

This year, organizers have scheduled about four to five activities that will take place during every week of February. Featured offerings include panel discussions on "The Dream Motif in African-American Life and Literature," and "Black Professionals in Laredo," a lecture on "Code switching among Blacks and Hispanics," and a musical presentation titled," Jazz in Laredo."

All activities, free and open to the community, are designed to focus on the sheer length and breadth of endeavors in which blacks have participated in this country and the world, Engling said.

"If you look at history, blacks have excelled in every profession and area including sports, engineering, science, literature and sociology," Engling explained, "In the past, we have not been credited with such a level of intelligence. Black History Month gives us an opportunity not just to know but also to celebrate the contribution blacks have made to the world."

Also, while most of Laredo's population is Hispanic, Engling said many Laredoans feel a strong camaraderie and connection with blacks, who together with Hispanics, constitute the largest minority voting block in the country.

"As the largest minority groups in the country, blacks and Hispanics have historically voted together on key issues," Engling explained, "For example, when the issue of the English Only' rule in California surfaced, blacks voted overwhelmingly against it. Also on issues such as immigration where Hispanics are likely to suffer, blacks and Hispanics have voted together."

The TAMIU Black History Month schedule of activities includes:

All Month: The Sue and Radcliffe Killam Library exhibit (Library Lobby) and the College of Arts and Sciences poster display (Killam Fourth Floor Art Corridor) celebrating the achievements of the peoples of Africa and the Diaspora.

Week 1

* Monday, February 2, 12 p.m., Opening Ceremony, featuring remarks by Vice President for Student Affairs, Dr. Thomas Corti, followed by the Panel: "The Dream Motif in African-American Life and Literature." Students from ENGL 4338 (Minority Voices) will discuss the status of the dream. (Western Hemispheric Trade Center, room 103).

* Tuesday, February 3, 7 p.m., Black Film Series: "OT: Our Town." 2003. Compton, CA high school teachers use drama to motivate inner city students. (Student Center Auditorium).

* Wednesday, February 4, 12 p.m., Lecture: "African Civilization in Art and Architecture." Dr. Richard Wright, assistant professor of art history, will present a slide show on the history of African art and architecture. (CPFA 121).

* Thursday, February 5, 12 p.m., Lecture: "Black Scientists." Dr. Mario García-Rios will give a presentation on the African American professionals at the National Institute of Health. (Western Hemispheric Trade Center, 103).

* Friday, February 6, 12 p.m., Special Multimedia Presentation. "Bob Marley: Reggae Activist." A PowerPoint slide show commemorating the anniversary of Marley's birthday, featuring the music of the Jamaican superstar. Designed by Dr. Ezra Engling, professor of Spanish, and Charles Haruna, TAMIU senior in information technology. (Student Center Food Court).

Week 2

* Monday, February 9, 12 p.m., Lecture: "African Institutions." Dr. Peter Haruna, assistant professor of public administration and political science, will speak on the social and political structures affecting life on the Continent. (Western Hemispheric Trade Center, 103).

* Tuesday, February 10, 7 p.m., Black Film Series: "Four Little Girls." 1997. The story of the infamous church-bombing incident in Alabama during the turbulent 1960s. (Student Center Auditorium).

* Wednesday, February 11, 12 p.m., Documentary: "Nubia: The Forgotten Kingdom." Dr. Mohammed Ben-Ruwin will present this film on the fall of a great pre-Egyptian culture, and field questions. (Western Hemispheric Trade Center, 103).

* Thursday, February 12, 12 p.m., Film/Discussion: "The Power of Illusion." Dr. Judith Warner, associate professor of sociology, and her students will lead show the film, and lead the discussion of this film on race. (Western Hemispheric Trade Center, 103).

Week 3

* Monday, February 16, 12 p.m., Panel: "Black Professionals in Laredo." Featuring Mr. Gathon Robinson, the only black pilot in the national Border Patrol; Alphe Wells, human resources recruiter at Mercy Medical Center; TAMIU's Captain Ruben Irizarry-Guzmán, assistant professor of military science, Leebrian Gaskins, associate director of Computer and Telecommunication Services and Cassandra Wheeler, benefits specialist, Office of Human Resources. (Western Hemispheric Trade Center, 103).

* Tuesday, February 17, 7 p.m., Black Film Series: "Miss Evers Boys." 1997. Alfre Woodard won a Golden Globe Best Actress Award for her portrayal of the sympathetic nurse tending to the black men used as guinea pigs in the government-sponsored syphilis experiment in Alabama. (Student Center Auditorium).

* Wednesday, February 18, 12 p.m., Reading: "Black Voices." Students from English class 4338 (Minority Voices) will read pieces from Phyllis Wheatley, Langston Hughes, Sonya Sánchez, Nicolás Guillén, Ntozake Shanga, Sojourner Truth, Dennis Brutus, Derek Walcott, Leopold Senghor, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Alice Walker, Gwendolyn Brooks and Okot p'Bitek. (Western Hemispheric Trade Center, 103).

* Thursday, February 19, 12 p.m., Lecture: "African American Incarceration." Dr. Hamid Kusha, associate professor of criminal justice, will examine the relationship between Blacks and the penal system. (Western Hemispheric Trade Center, 103).

Week 4

* Monday, February 23, 12 p.m., Lecture: "Blacks in Laredo." Using the MA thesis of the late Jorge González as source, Dr. Stanley Green, professor of history, will discuss the black presence in Laredo. (Western Hemispheric Trade Center, 103).

* Tuesday, February 24, 7 p.m., Black Film Series: "A Raisin in the Sun." 1961. Lorraine Hansberry's landmark drama about the dreams of a family of the forces of racial prejudice blocking their path. (Student Center Auditorium).

* Wednesday, February 25, 12 p.m., Lecture: "Code switching among Blacks and Hispanics." Dr. Roberto Heredia, associate professor of psychology, will comment on the status and linguistic relevance of Ebonics and Spanglish. (Western Hemispheric Trade Center, room 103).

* Thursday, February 26, 12 p.m., Musical Presentation: "Jazz in Laredo." Drs. Michael Yoder, associate professor of geography and Kevin Lindberg, assistant professor of English, and fellow band-member, Laredo teacher Rick Cortez, will entertain. (Student Center Food Court).

For more information about Black History Month at TAMIU, please contact Dr. Ezra Engling at 326.2648; visit offices in the Sue and Radcliffe Killam Library, room 435B, or e-mail engling@tamiu.edu. More information is also available at www.tamiu.edu/newsinfo. University office hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Journalists who need additional information or help with media requests and interviews should contact the Office of Public Affairs and Information Services at pais@tamiu.edu