African-American poetry and music celebrated

Organizations present Black History program
February 16, 2018

League of Women Voters of Sussex County and Southern Delaware Alliance for Racial Justice presented a Black History Month observation Feb. 9 at Lewes Public Library. The original program was created for SDARJ and the LWVSC, and modified slightly for this program. The groups gathered poetry, prose and music honoring family, faith and freedom presented to more than 50 people.

Narrated by Dr. Aimee Wiest, historian and musician, the program included music and readings. Readers were Hattie Bull, Alicia Jones and Jim Sherard.

“We’re living in a time today when we would hope that some of the angst and sadness and pain that some of these poems came from, and the feelings that they still elicit - that we would have overcome some of that. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, 'We shall overcome and we shall overcome.' But one would have hoped that we would have overcome a bit better by now," program coordinator and host Janet Orlando said.

She continued, “We have a mandate for all of us...all races, religions, ethnicities, whether Islamic, Jewish, black, white, Christian, African-American, Asian, whatever race, to learn to accept one another and get along with each other, in the words of Rodney King after the LA Riots years ago, ‘Can’t we all just get along?’”

The program began with early poets such as Phillis Wheatley and Harriet Tubman whose words addressed slavery, plus post-slavery poets such as Paul Laurence Dunbar, James Weldon Johnson and Georgia Douglas Johnson. The Harlem Renaissance included poems and music with Claude McKay, Langston Hughes and Arma Bontemps. The Civil Rights Movement included Margaret Walker, Gwendolyn Brooks and Mari Evans. Modern poets included Maya Angelou, Audre Lord, Imamu Amiri Baraka and Lucille Clifton, addressing the struggle that remains in society.

Contemporary poets, defined as still living, were represented by Ishmael Reed, Haki Madhubuti, Nikki Giovanni, Rita Dove, Tracy K. Smith and the twin poets Albert Mills and Nnamdi Chukwuocha.

Also helping to make the program available to the community were Charlotte King, director of SDARJ; Kathleen Baker, chair, SDARJ Education Committee, and other members, including Dan Baker, musical assistant for the program.