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Cultural Center to celebrate 2005 Black History Month with special activities

The West Virginia Division of Culture and History will celebrate Black History Month with its Cultural Heritage Lecture Series, Poetry/Storytelling Open Mic session and movies during the month of February. All activities will take place at the Cultural Center, State Capitol Complex in Charleston, and are free and open to the public.

The Cultural Heritage Lecture Series on Wednesday, Feb. 16, at 7 p.m., will feature Ilene Evans portraying History Alive character Harriet Tubman and Dr. Dana Brooks who will speak on “Black Community Sports in West Virginia.”

Evans, from Thomas, is an actress, dancer, poet, singer, songwriter and storyteller. She was telling stories through dance, music, and the spoken word around the Chicago metropolitan area for 20 years before moving to West Virginia. She has worked with choreographers Laurie Macklin, Joel Hall and Joseph Holmes, the Whirlwind Performance Company, Momenta! and the Doris Humphrey Memorial Theatre. In addition, she led her own liturgical dance company for three years and started a movement and music theater company called Voices from the Earth, Inc., where she has served as artistic director since 1991. Evans has produced three CDs of her work, including General Moses: Stories from the Life of Harriet Tubman, Harvest of Dreams: African American Poetry and Prose, Voices to Remember, and Climbing Up the Beanstalk - Hey Jack!

Brooks is professor and dean of the school of physical education at West Virginia University (WVU). He received his bachelor’s degree from Towson University and his master’s and doctoral degrees from WVU. He has published nationally and internationally in the areas of sport sociology and sport social psychology and is co-editor of Racism in College Athletics: the African American Athletes Experience (2000, second edition). His talk will reconstruct the African-American high school sports community in West Virginia prior to and immediately following the Brown vs. Board of Education court decision in 1954.

The Poetry/Storytelling Open Mic series will feature Huntington author Elaine Blue on Friday, Feb. 18. The Open Mic session, hosted by singer/songwriter and history teacher Peter Kosky of South Charleston will begin at 6 p.m. New and established writers are invited to come and share their poetry and storytelling talents at the open mic session. The session is limited to one hour; and Blue will begin her performance shortly after the last poem/story has been read, whether or not the hour is over.

Blue is a poet, playwright, artist, public speaker, and founder and former director/producer of the Huntington Theatrical Ensemble. She draws on a diverse background for her writing, including being director of a housing authority and child-care agency; elementary school teacher; counselor; community organizer; and working with the homeless. She has published three books of poetry, Moods and Works of Blue, A Million Dreams and Mommy What, Why, Where and How Come and her work has been included in many anthologies including Wild Sweet Notes: 50 Years of West Virginia Poetry. In addition, Blue has written several plays such as Pieces, Buddy and the Angel, Wedding of the Flowers, I Will Survive and Angel on the Head of a Pin, among others. She says of her work, “Ordered simplicity is what I strive for in my writing. I find myself telling stories of folks who live simple lives and in the midst of difficulty are able to lift themselves up, count their blessings and go on.”

The movie series continues on Saturday, Feb. 19, with two showings at 1 and 4 p.m. Banjo Man (26 minutes, 1977) is a prize-winning film about Summers County Native John “Uncle” Homer Walker, who played the banjo for more than 60 years. Trouble Behind (56 minutes, 1990) examines the origins of present-day racism in Corbin Kentucky and explores how many people still deny the history of racism while retaining more subtle prejudices. A Time for Justice (38 minutes, 1994) is the story of the American civil rights movement as told by those who fought the battle and risked their lives for the cause of freedom and equality.

For more information about the free Black History Month activities at the Cultural Center, call (304) 558-0162.

The West Virginia Division of Culture and History, an agency of the West Virginia Department of Education and the Arts, brings together the state’s past, present and future through programs and services in the areas of archives and history, the arts, historic preservation and museums. The Cultural Center is West Virginia’s official showcase for the arts. Visit the Division’s website at www.wvculture.org for more information about programs of the Division. The Division of Culture and History is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer.

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