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Executive Director Newsletter 2/2

Guest Column: Celebrating and Understanding African American History Month

By Kibibi Ajanku

…about African American History Month

As a Harvard-trained historian, Carter G. Woodson, like W. E. B. Du Bois before him believed that truth could not be denied and that reason would prevail over prejudice. His hopes to raise awareness of African American's contributions to civilization were realized when he and the organization he founded, the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH), conceived and announced Negro History Week in 1925. The event was first celebrated during a week in February 1926 that encompassed the birthday of Frederick Douglass. By the time of Woodson's death in 1950, Negro History Week had become a central part of African American life. The Black Awakening of the 1960s dramatically expanded consciousness and the Civil Rights movement focused on the contributions of African Americans to history and culture. The celebration was expanded to a month in 1976. Now the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH)—continues to promote the study of Black history all year.

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African American History Month Ancestors Tribute

Avis Ransom

“Though many of us have lived long enough to see schools and eating establishments desegregated and the inclusion of people of color in leadership roles in the public sector and corporate America, racism remains a structural problem in the United States.”

A quote from, Structural Racism: Arts & Social Justice Workshop

Published in: GIA Reader, Vol 20, No 1 (Spring 2009)

On Saturday, February 20, 2016, The Urban Arts Leadership Program, under the direction of Kibibi Ajanku, presented a workshop for representatives from its 2015/16 Partner Organizations. The workshop was led by Avis Ransom of Baltimore Racial Justice Action. The purpose of the workshop was to create healing, courageous, and insightful dialogue in an effort to unpack hidden components within the Baltimore arts organizational landscape that reflect structural racism. The session drew on the life experiences and witnessed events of the participants in the room, who all wanted to advance their skill and ability to enhance racial equity and inclusion within their workplaces.

What Is structural racism? Structural racism is the silent opportunity killer. It is the blind interaction between institutions, policies, and practices that inevitably perpetuate barriers to opportunities and racial disparities. Conscious and unconscious racism continues to exist in our society. Structural racism must be understood because it is the opposing force to inclusion and equity. It matters greatly within the framework of democracy where all people… no matter who, no matter what, no matter where… deserve to be treated with balance and fairness.

(Avis Ransom left this physical plane to join the realm of the Ancestors in 2020 after a courageous battle with cancer. We stand on her shoulders. The legacy of her work will live in the truth that is told each time her name is spoken, this month and always.)

Since 2012, GBCA’s Urban Arts Leadership (UAL) has worked to dismantle structural racism through the implementation of its Fellowship Program. UAL is an initiative that trains and places recent college graduates in short term, mentored leadership positions within Baltimore area cultural organizations.

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