Harare, February 7, 2018: The United States Embassy and Zimbabwean partners celebrate Black History Month- also known as African American History Month in America- with a series of activities across Zimbabwe. These will include discussion sessions, infotainment and educational events to promote understanding of the contributions made by African Americans to societal progress in the United States and the world over.
“We are excited that Zimbabweans are able to partner with us to celebrate Black History Month,” said John Taylor, Deputy Public Affairs Officer whilst moderating a lively discussion session after the screening of the film “In the Heat of the Night.” The film details a murder mystery set during the Civil Rights movement. He added that “this year’s theme, ‘African Americans in Times of War,’ celebrates the contributions African Americans have made to the United States on the battlefield, going all the way back to our nation’s founding. They have fought in all major conflicts including in the Civil War, when they fought for their own freedom to end slavery.”
Taylor, a veteran and diplomat, said it was unfortunate that through World War II African Americans usually had to fight in segregated units separately from white soldiers. He noted that despite this, they distinguished themselves in combat and showed they were just as patriotic and brave as anyone else, if not moreso.
“By the time my father fought in the Vietnam War, many members of his squadron and some of his best friend were African Americans,” said Taylor. “I also was proud to serve side by side with African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, Native Americans, and other men and women with origins all over the world during my time in the United States Air Force. We hope Zimbabweans from all walks of life will be inspired and encouraged by the stories of sacrifices made by African Americans to make the United States and many parts of the world what they are today.”
Other key Embassy sponsored events earmarked to celebrate Black History Month include, a House of Hunger Poetry Slam scheduled for this Saturday at 2 pm at the B2C auditorium in central Harare. The House of Hunger poetry slam, organized by Pamberi Trust, will feature both budding and seasoned poets. Interested poets and members of the public are free to attend and participate at the event. In addition to more film shows at B2C, the venue is also the venue for a photographic exhibition honoring African American icons.
On Wednesday February 14th, Stacy Lomba, Public Diplomacy Officer at the United States Embassy will lead a discussion on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in the United States. HBCUs are institutions of higher education in the United States that were established before the Civil Rights Act of 1964 with the intention of primarily serving the African-American community. Lomba, a graduate of an HBCU- Florida A&M University, will share the platform with, Modester Kamupinda, a Zimbabwean who studied at Spelman College in the United States to offer insights into life at these HBCUs and the unique educational opportunities they offer, to increase understanding for student who may be interested in applying.
Black History Month started as Negro History Week in 1925. The event was first celebrated during a week in February 1926 that encompassed the birthdays of both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. By the time of Woodson’s death in 1950, Negro History Week had become a central part of African American life and substantial progress had been made in bringing more Americans to appreciate the celebration. The celebration was expanded to a month in 1976, the nation’s bicentennial. President Gerald R. Ford urged Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”
In his Proclamation of February 2018 as National African American History Month, President Donald J. Trump highlighted African American military service in all of America’s wars, from the American Revolution to present day. He noted that the theme “calls our attention to the heroic contributions of African Americans during our Nation’s military conflicts, from the Revolutionary War to present-day operations.” President Trump noted that the United States will “remember soldiers like Sergeant Henry Johnson of the Harlem Hellfighters, the all-black National Guard unit that was among the first American forces to arrive in France during World War I.” Johnson suffered 21 wounds during front-line combat and received France’s highest award for valor. To acknowledge his exceeding bravery, he was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and a Purple Heart. – ZimPAS © February 7, 2018.
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