US Embassy, UB launch Black History Month film festival


The University of Botswana (UB) and the United States of America embassy launched the12th Annual Black History Month Film Festival at the UB Library Auditorium on Monday.

The collaboration between the English Department and the American Embassy started in 2004 and each year in February they commemorate Black History month through a screening of films that complement material covered in courses on African American Literature and History at UB.

Black History Month, or National African American History Month, is an annual celebration of achievements by black Americans and a time for recognising the central role of African Americans in US history. The event grew out of  Negro History Week,  the brainchild of noted historian Carter G. Woodson and other prominent African Americans. Since 1976, every US president has officially designated the month of February as Black History Month. Other countries around the world, including Canada and the United Kingdom, also devote a month to celebrating black history.

This year’s festival is a three-day activity on February 22, 23 and 25. The theme this year is “Hallowed Grounds - Sites of African American Memories”.

When officially launching the festival, the US Ambassador, Earl R. Miller said it was the 12th year of the US embassy and the UB partnership to celebrate the Black History Month Film Festival.

 This film festival celebrates the central role that African Americans have played in every aspect of American life and to share their profound contributions to freedom and justice, as well as arts and culture. T

This year marks important historic milestones in black history and in the history of the US.  This is the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, the 50th anniversary of the March of Washington and the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, he said.

Miller said these anniversaries conjure up great African American leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks, whose names and contributions are well known.

“This is not easy in a nation so diverse.  A  more perfect world is only achievable if we bring together people from all backgrounds, races, faiths, ability, sexual orientation, and gender identity as one people,” he said. 

Miller added that these films help people to understand America’s story as a shared story with a shared experience.

During the opening night, people watched a film called Kehinde Wiley: An Economy of Grace. The 50 minutes film told the story of a visual artist and his paintings depicting African-American women. The models for the paintings were displayed on the streets of New York City, but their poses were based on historical portraits of high-society women.

A student from the English department at UB recited a poem entitled The Negro Speaks of Rivers by Langston Hughes.

 On Tuesday they screened Keep on Keepin’On  about a legendary musician Clark Terry, who taught Quincy Jones and mentored Miles Davis. He is then put to a tough test when he mentors a blind 23-year old pianist who suffers from crippling stage fright.

Today they will show the first documentary, Through a Lens Darkly: Black Photographers and the Emergence of a People.

It explores the role of photography in shaping the identity, aspirations, and social emergence of African Americans from slavery to the present, The Black History Month is coordinated by Dr. Maude Dikobe who teaches literature and the expressive arts of Africa and the African Diaspora at UB in the English Department.

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