Celebrating African American history at Riderwood

By Andrea Nicolls
Member, African American History Club

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During Black History Month this February, the African American History Club will present several significant programs that you will not want to miss. We will have a film, lectures, educational displays and critical information about historically important African American women presented in biographical sketches throughout the month of February on Riderwood TV.

To start off the month our annual Southern style luncheon buffet will take place on Wednesday, February 7 from 11 to 1:30 in Maryland Hall in Montgomery Station. This is always a popular event, where residents, staff, family and friends may come and enjoy home style cooking coupled with pleasant conversation. Residents may use their MOD for themselves and their guests, or pay $15.25.

On Tuesday, February 13 in the Encore Theater from 10 a.m.  to 12 noon, Hari Jones will speak about the Underground Railroad. Mr. Jones is an independent curator and currently on the Board of Directors of the National Civil War Museum in Harrisburg, PA. He was formerly assistant director and curator at the African American Civil War Freedom Foundation and Museum in Washington, D.C. He is one of the foremost authorities on the role of African Americans in the Civil War.

On Sunday, February 18 in the Encore Theater from 7:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., Dr. Frank Smith will speak about the role of United States Colored Troops during the Civil War. Dr. Smith was a four-term member of the D.C. Council and the Founding Director of the African American Civil War Memorial and Museum in Washington D.C. He attended Morehouse College in Georgia and was also a founding member of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee. In its 123rd anniversary celebration in 2017, the Historical Society of Washington D.C. honored Dr. Smith with its Visionary Historian Award. which is presented to the individual whose lifetime body of work represents the highest achievement in the study of Washington, DC and related history.

Have you ever heard of Fannie Lou Hamer or the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party?  The answer to this question is revealed in “This Little Light of Mine: The Legacy of Fannie Lou Hamer” an important documentary film by Robin N. Hamilton, a freelance journalist. Through interviews, historical film footage and photographs, Ms. Hamilton tells the story of one of the most remarkable and underrated figures in the civil rights movement. The film shows how Mrs. Hamer defied the political establishment of the day and became an eloquent spokesperson for poor people because she was one of them. Robin Hamilton, the filmmaker, will attend the film in person, to talk about her labor of love and why she chose to make this film. You don’t want to miss this event, which will take place on Thursday, February 22 in the Encore Theater. The first showing will be from 2:30-3:30 p.m. and the second showing will be from 7:30-9:00 p.m. Robin Hamilton will be at both showings.

Levern Allen’s display committee will highlight the theme of “Looking Back, Moving Forward.” The displays, in Riderwood’s community buildings,  will feature material and information covering topics such as the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education program given in many colleges that seek to foster learning skills, inquiring minds, reasoning and collaboration skills. Mathematician Katherine Johnson will be featured here. Transportation is another theme which will highlight important figures ranging from A. Philip Randolph of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters to Astronauts Mae Jamison and Robert Mc Nair. Also shown will be business entrepreneurs, ranging from those who opened the first African American Insurance Company in 1810 to Vanilla Beane, the famous milliner whose millinery shop is still open for business today in Washington, D.C. Mrs. Beane’s display will be in the Chapel display cases along with a display of praying hands.   

Throughout the month of February, Rebecca Griffin’s committee will carry on the work of the late Dorothy Stevens and present biographical highlights of well-known African American women on Riderwood TV. The programs will include biographies of notable women in the fields of transportation, politics, theatre, literary arts and sports. Some, like author Zora Neale Hurston and Senator Kamala Harris, may be better known than others such as Ernestine Shepherd, an 81-year old bodybuilder from Baltimore, MD.

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