East Side Freedom Library celebrates Black History Month

February is Black History Month and the East Side Freedom Library is celebrating with a film series and other related events through out the month. Each Monday in February features a film related to black history. Events are free and open to all.

Film Series

7 p.m., Feb. 1: Rize
This is a lively documentary about new popular dance forms, called clowning, created by young African Americans in South Central Los Angeles in the aftermath of the 1992 Rodney King riots. After the film, Alessandra Williams, a member of the Ananya Dance Theater and a PhD student in World Arts and Cultures at UCLA, leads a discussion.

7 p.m., Feb. 8: The Watermelon Woman
The protagonist in this 1996 feature film is a young African American woman who works in a video store to pay the bills. She becomes fascinated by the life and career of an African American actress who was cast in stereotypical “mammy” roles in 1930s films and seeks to make a film about her. Freda Fair, a PhD student in women’s studies and African American studies at UCLA, leads a discussion of this film.

7 p.m., Feb. 15: Brother John
Sidney Poitier helped shape and starred in this 1971 dramatic film about a mysterious man who returns to his Alabama hometown for his sister’s funeral. He arrives in the midst of a labor strike and the local authorities suspect he is an outside agitator. Dr. John Wright, professor of African American studies and English at the University of Minnesota, leads a discussion.

Feb. 22: Ghosts of Amistad
This new, award-winning documentary follows historian Marcus Rediker on a trip to Sierra Leone in search of local memories of the slave ship rebellion which gripped the United States, first in 1839 when it happened, and again in the late 1990s when Stephen Spielberg’s movie was enthusiastically received. Ghosts of Amistad revolves around interviews with fishermen, truck drivers and village residents in the West African country from which the Amistad slaves were captured and sold. The post-film discussion is led by Dwayne Williams, a PhD student in African history at the University of Minnesota.

7 p.m., Feb. 29: Their Eyes Were Watching God
This film and discussion are part of “The Big Read,” a program sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts and led locally by Metropolitan State University’s Institute for Community Engagement and Scholarship. More than 1,000 community residents are reading and discussing Zora Neale Hurston’s classic 1937 novel and engaging the text through performances by the Black Storytellers Alliance and screenings of this 2005 film, based on a script adapted by Suzan-Lori Parks and starring Halle Berry.

Additional Black History Month Events

3 p.m., Jan. 30: African American Pulp
“African American Pulp” is a presentation by University of Minnesota English professor and author Paula Rabinowitz. As Dr. Rabinowitz retires from the university, she is donating thousands of books to the East Side Freedom Library. These include a treasure trove of pulp novels from the 1930s-1950s, including a rich collection written by African American authors. She drew on these resources for her recent award-winning book, American Pulp: How Paperbacks Brought Modernism To Main Street.

1 p.m., Feb. 13: Black Storytellers Alliance
The Black Storytellers Alliance provides a performance suitable for parents and children alike. Storytelling has been an important part of African American culture since the arrival of slaves in the 1600s and 1700s. See how the Minneapolis-based Black Storytellers Alliance has kept these traditions and performance practices alive.

7 p.m., Feb. 19: Twin Cities Labor Film Night
Twin Cities Labor Film Night comes to the East Side Freedom Library with a screening of the award-winning documentary, From Selma To Soweto. This film is part of a longer, multipart series, Have You Heard From Johannesburg, which places the struggle against the apartheid regime in South Africa in the context of international solidarity. From Selma To Soweto follows the activism of a coalition of civil rights movement veterans and young people as they seek to change U.S. foreign policy as practiced in the late 1970s and 1980s.

The East Side Freedom Library is located in the historic Carnegie Library building, 1105 Greenbrier Street, Saint Paul. The library hosts a rich collection of African American history books and resources, including novels, poetry, drama, music and visual art. For more information contact East Side Freedom Library at info@eastsidefreedomlibrary.org or 651-774-8687.