Celebrate black history with events throughout the month at Pitt


Pitt is kicking off Black History Month with a variety of events honoring the contributions of people of African descent to the nation.

One of the first was the K. Leroy Irvis Black History Month Program, a free celebration at the August Wilson Center on Feb. 5 featuring actress, playwright and journalist Anna Deavere Smith.

Smith, known for her one-woman shows, performed monologues of several interviews with several influential African-Americans, including civil rights icon John Lewis and Equal Justice Initiative founder Bryan Stevenson.

The theme for this year is “Black Migrations,” according to the Office of Diversity and Inclusion. This theme explores the worldwide migration patterns of people of African descent.

The Association for the Study of African American Life and History — the founding organization of Black History Month — further describes the complexity and scope of these migrations.

“The theme Black Migrations equally lends itself to the exploration of the century’s later decades from spatial and social perspectives, with attention to ‘new’ African Americans because of the burgeoning African and Caribbean population in the US,” the ASALAH website reads. “Northern African Americans’ return to the South; racial suburbanization; inner-city hyperghettoization; health and environment; civil rights and protest activism; electoral politics; mass incarceration; and dynamic cultural production.”

Pitt has a wide array of educational programming planned for the month with presentations on recent protest movements, film screenings and more.

“Ferguson Voices: Disrupting the Frame”: Global Studies, the ULS, and others are partnering to bring this traveling exhibit to the Hillman Library for Black History Month. “Ferguson Voices” tells the story of the people of Ferguson, Missouri, before, during, and after Michael Brown, a young black man, was shot and killed by a white police officer in August 2014. The physical exhibit will be located in the alcove just to the right of the first floor entrance of Hillman for the month of February; there is also a website and a podcast

Sophisticated Giant: The Life and Legacy of Dexter Gordonby Maxine Gordon: 4-5 p.m. Feb. 7, Hillman Library, 111 Thornburgh Room. Maxine Gordon is an independent scholar with a lifetime career working with jazz musicians. As an oral historian and archivist in the fields of jazz and African-American cultural history, “Sophisticated Giant” fulfills the promise she made to her late husband, jazz saxophonist and Academy Award-nominated actor Dexter Gordon, to complete his biography.

Black Lives Matter: Intersectional and Transnational Perspectives: Noon Feb. 7, Thornburgh Room, Hillman library.

Advancing Health Equity and the Human Right to Health: Social policy perspectives on public health: 4:30-6 p.m. Feb. 13, Thornburgh Room, Hillman Library.

Wylie Avenue Days” Film Screening: 2-3:30 p.m. Feb. 13, Room 171B, Hillman Library. The documentary “Wylie Avenue Days: A History of the Hill District 1930-1950” focuses on the Great Migration in Pittsburgh.

Racial Regimes in Transnational Context: A conversation with Michael Hanchard: Noon Feb. 18, Thornburgh Room

In Search of Home: The Legacy of Black Women's Migration Narrative: 11 a.m.-1:30 pm. Feb. 20, William Pitt Union Ballroom.

Panel discussion “How engagement between police and communities impacts communities of color”: 5 p.m. Feb. 21, Room 323, Alumni Hall

Hands-On Community Workshop with Poet/Artists Saretta Morgan and Bekezela Mguni: 6:30 p.m. Feb. 25, Digital Scholarship Commons, Hillman Library.

Here are a few other black history-related events not included in the official list.

"Africans In India: From Slaves to Generals and Rulers": 4:30-6:30 p.m. Feb. 15, Frick Fine Arts Auditorium

Flyin' West”: 8 p.m. Feb. 14, with several more performances through Feb. 24. The Department of Theatre Arts presents a play about four black women in 1898 as they lay claim to land in Nicodemus, an all-black Kansas town. 

Donovan Harrell is a writer for the University Times. Reach him at dharrell@pitt.edu or 412-383-9905.