Enslaved communities, reducing prejudice and the contributions of Booker T. Washington and others are among topics that will be explored in February at Loudoun County events to commemorate Black History Month.
Local happenings include the Virginia premiere screening of the new documentary Me, the “Other” on Feb. 18 at the Northern Virginia Baha’i Center in Sterling. The film explores how a dozen college students in Michigan deal with coming from challenging environments such as hurricane-devastated Puerto Rico; economically-depressed Flint, which has also faced a contaminated drinking water crisis; the possibility of being deported; and homelessness.
The documentary came together in a few months last year, said director and co-producer Shidan Majidi, who has previously worked on hit Broadway musicals like The Phantom of the Opera and Les Miserables.
“I believe that at this critical juncture in our journey as a human race, we need a radical paradigm shift in our approach to the preservation of our collective home by starting to view our planet as one country and humanity its citizens,” Majidi said in a statement. “Elimination of prejudice is one of the fundamental principles in establishing this goal. Storytelling is a powerful tool in raising awareness and bridging the gaps.”
Majidi, other producers and some cast members plan to attend the screening at the center at 21415 Cardinal Glen Circle. A reception is at 6:30 p.m. with the film starting at 7:30 p.m. A limited number of tickets are available for $15 by calling 703-403-2526.
On Feb. 3, nonprofits Oatlands Historic House and Gardens and Loudoun Freedom Center sponsored a discussion on former area enslaved communities at the Oatlands Carriage House, 20850 Oatlands Plantation Lane in Leesburg.
The event explored life on former plantations at Coton – formed by the Lee family – and Oatlands – formed by the Carter family. The Carters owned as many as 133 slaves in 1860, the most in Loudoun County at that time, according to the Oatlands website.
Michelle Thomas, pastor at Holy and Whole Life Changing Ministries, and Lori Kimball, Oatlands director of programming and education, led a discussion. Thomas headed the campaign to preserve the Belmont Slave Cemetery, which was recently gifted to the Loudoun Freedom Foundation.
Oatlands will also host a free discussion and book signing at 2 p.m. Feb. 18 by historian Elizabeth Dowling Taylor, author of The Original Black Elite: Daniel Murray and the Story of a Forgotten Era. In her latest book, Taylor, the former director of interpretation at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, chronicled the lives of upper-class African Americans. Those included Murray, a Baltimore-born historian who became the second black person to work for the Library of Congress in 1871 and was an assistant librarian there for some four decades. Books will be available to purchase.
On Feb. 21, Donna Bohanon, chair of the Black History Committee of the Friends of the Thomas Balch Library, will lead a presentation on the African-American community in Sterling at 6:30 pm in the Sterling Library, 22330 South Sterling Blvd. Richard Nokes, a member of a long-time local family, and Rev. Gregory Spurlock are slated to attend.
On Feb. 24, the Friends of the Thomas Balch Library hosts a tour, lunch and discussions at the library at 208 W. Market St. in Leesburg. Speakers will include author Kevin Grigsby, who will address the role of African Americans in wartime. Lunch will be followed by a roundtable discussion on how to conduct genealogy research.
Then at 2 p.m. on Feb. 25, journalist Jim Hall will speak about his book, The Last Lynching in Northern Virginia, at the Balch Library. The book focuses on a 1932 incident that happened in Fauquier County. While Virginia had fewer lynchings than 12 other Southern states and Missouri, lynch mobs still took the lives of 100 people – mostly African Americans – between 1882 and 1968, according to a study by Tuskegee University.
Bright Star Touring Theatre will perform a show in which a character playing George Washington Carver will introduce influential African Americans such as Booker Washington and Jackie Robinson. The show, geared toward preschool and elementary school students, is slated for 2 p.m. Feb. 17 at the Middleburg Library and 2 p.m. Feb. 18 at the Sterling Library.
At 2 p.m. Feb. 18, author Bob O’Connor will speak about African-Americans involved with John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry in 1859 and sign books at the Purcellville Library. The event is for students in grades nine through adults.
In addition, many county schools are hosting various exhibits and events involving students to commemorate the month. For a list of activities, click here.