2018 Black History Festival Events Celebrate One New Mexico by Sean Cardinalli
For the seventh year in a row, the New Mexico Black History Festival organizers have built a rich, genre-spanning program of performances appealing to all New Mexicans while celebrating African American culture and history.
This year’s festival theme—One New Mexico—emphasizes inclusiveness and togetherness while exhibiting black culture’s accomplishments and expressions. NM Black History Organizing Committee founder and director Cathryn McGill has scheduled an array of entertaining events.
“‘One New Mexico’ is something that we still must aspire to,” McGill states. “We still need improvements in the area of promoting true multiculturalism. The events we are doing are all about figuring out ways that we might interact socially, politically, and culturally.”
The series of events begins on Sunday, February 11th at Nob Hill’s Hiland Theater with the 1st Annual Youth Talent Hunt Competition sponsored by Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc.’s Nu Rho chapter. The contest will showcase local high school students à la America’s Got Talent. The participants represent a range of campuses, including Albuquerque, Volcano Vista, Manzano, and East Mountain high schools.
Omega Psi Phi member Lawrence Fannin reminds us that, “The talent hunt is held in memory of Carter G. Woodson,” who was himself a member of the fraternity and a “renowned scholar and father of black history. We feel it’s only right to honor his legacy by rewarding students who have aspirations for higher education.”
On Thursday, February 15th, the hotly-anticipated movie, Marvel’s Black Panther, screens at Century Rio 24. Tickets for the event, including a mixer sponsored by the Young Black Professionals of Albuquerque, sold out quickly in January. YBABQ co-founder Shawna Brown was happy to “help create a space to engage our community while supporting black media. Also, as a fan of sci-fi and Afrofuturism, everything about this event was a ‘go’ for me!”
Back at Hiland Theater on Sunday, February 18th, international performing artist Callie Day will be featured in the One New Mexico Gospel Concert. Ms. Day, an Atlanta native, has performed with opera companies from Miami University, Bowling Green State, and the city of Cincinnati. Online clips of her singing gospel hits recently went viral and she released her first album, Hear My Prayer, last spring. The One New Mexico Gospel Choir, made up of individuals from churches throughout New Mexico, will also perform and the concert is free.
The 7th Annual Cotton Club Scholarship Gala, dubbed “Kings and Queens of Soul,” will celebrate the legacy of Albuquerque’s education champions. This year’s Frederick Douglass Award honoree is Dr. Linda Townsend-Johnson, principal of Sunset View Elementary in Paradise Hills.
The Albuquerque alumnae chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. sponsors the gala on Saturday, February 24th at Embassy Suites downtown, which includes dinner, entertainment, and dancing led by R&B band Retro-Soul. “The night is all about education,” says Delta Sigma Theta Arts & Letters Chair Vicki Scott, “and our sorority has a history of lending its energy toward academic causes.” The sorority’s annual Judith R. Harris Scholarship has bequeathed college-bound students over $20,000 in the last decade.
After dinner and fêting Dr. Townsend-Johnson, 99.9 The Beat’s Byron Powdrell will keep the music going in between Retro-Soul’s sets.
NM Black History Festival’s events actually wrap up on Thursday, March 1st, at the historic Lensic Theater where genre-breaking duo Black Violin performs. Tickets include a chartered bus from Albuquerque to Santa Fe, dinner catered by Jambo Café, and dessert on the ride back.
Black Violin are known for their musical mashups from Wu-Tang Clan to Bach, played with an emphasis on breaking cultural and musical stereotypes, which is precisely what McGill’s month-long program intends to do as well. “Black history is American history,” McGill says. “We are all better when we know more, and we do better when we have better information.”
There are additional weekday events throughout the month; for info on dates, tickets, and more, please go to www.nmblackhistorymonth.com and proceed to the calendar and events sections.