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We asked arts and cultural leaders what Black History means to them

Posted by:  Kimmel Center on March 02, 2018

In celebration of Black History Month, we asked arts and cultural leaders near and far what Black History means to them. February might be over but we're celebrating Black History all season long with a myriad of programming that reaches broad and diverse audiences. Keep scrolling to find out what these leaders had to say!



African Americans are physical historians. We hold the history of the past, the present, and the future in our bodies. – Lorenzo “Rennie” Harris, Puremovement



My grandmother, Sarah Vandousa McCaskill, daughter of a slave, graduated from Morris Brown University in 1915 with a degree in piano pedagogy. Black History isn't just a month for me; it's my family's history. I honor the ultimate sacrifices of those before me and strive to be vigilant, especially in these times. – Regina Carter, Jazz Violinist



Black History Month is about honoring the sacrifices made by many great African American men and women to provide us with the life we have today. Celebrating those who sacrificed by continuing to innovate, collaborate, and communicate.  – Terell Stafford, Jazz Orchestra of Philadelphia



Black History Month means recognizing the strength of my ancestors and those who came before me. It means celebrating black people’s achievements and contributions to society and culture. They endured the unendurable and made it possible for me to share my gifts freely today. Black History is something I celebrate not only during the month of February, but every day! – J’Nai Bridges, Mezzo-Soprano



Black History Month for me is a wonderful and much needed reminder that greatness and perseverance are part of who I am, and though not always easy, it is still attainable. – Jermel Johnson, PA Ballet



Black History is a living history that lays the foundation set by our resilient ancestors who inspire our trailblazing descendants of the future. – Ernest Owens, Award-Winning Journalist



Black History to me is the wit, beauty and transcendence of women like Josephine Baker, Eartha Kitt, Shirley Bassey, Lena Horne, Sarah Vaughan, Carmen de Lavallade, Pearl Bailey and Nancy Wilson… – Laurin Talese, Jazz Vocalist



To me, Black History isn’t just the events we read about in school books - it’s also the day-to-day joys, struggles, triumphs, and experiences we each face from the moment we rise from our beds, and the choices we make about how to live in this world we’ve inherited. – Lawrence Brownlee, Operatic Tenor



Black History is an integral part of America's ongoing history as a country. For hundreds of years, enslaved Africans provided free labor in a myriad of areas from agriculture to the very building of infrastructure, among other areas.  It provided a foundation for our exponential growth economically and more as a nation. Black people work daily to contribute to the fiber of our national culture and viable future, as one of the most powerful countries on the planet. – Dyana Williams, WRNB



Black History sheds light on the barriers that black people have had to overcome and are still working to tear down today, and it gives context to the institutional and systemic issues that we continue to face; but most importantly our history should instill pride, because although this country was not built for us to succeed, we have not only survived, we have thrived.  – Nicole Allen White, Philadelphia Museum of Art



To be Afro-American is also to be part Anglo-American. That is at the root of many of the problems related to race in America. It’s hard for us to come to grips with that notion. We have been conditioned into making a false binary choice, an either/or, when life isn’t that cut and dried. Oftentimes it’s both/and. But it’s hard for us to reconcile that both/and when we are so used to having to choose sides. –Wynton Marsalis, Jazz at Lincoln Center Managing and Artistic Director



Black History Month, and throughout the year, is a time for me to reflect on the achievements of our people past and present, and remind myself that we are beautiful, and valuable despite what is going on in the world around us. – Jenea Robinson, Visit Philly



Black History Month is a time to reflect and celebrate those that have come before us and what they were able to accomplish; however, it should also be a time to become fully engaged in shaping our future. – Julie Coker Graham, PHL CVB



Black History is American history and it's world history. Black History is diverse cultures, dynamic people, and complex stories weaving from humankind's beginning until now. We must continue to remember, learn and teach Black History because it is all of our history. – Patti LaBelle


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