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January 28, 2002

Performances, lectures to commemorate Black History Month

Performances by the African-American Theater Arts Troupe, a lecture by a top NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund attorney, and a presentation on issues of race and sexual orientation are just a few of the events planned for Black History Month at UCSC in February.

Darchelle Branson plays Maybelle in the play Before It Hits Home, performed by the UCSC African-American Theater Arts Troupe. Photo: Chelsea Austin
Theodore M. Shaw, above, of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, speaks on February 6.
Before It Hits Home, a play dealing with cultural stereotypes, gender roles and the cultural taboo of placing "AIDS and Black in the same sentence," according to playwright Cheryl L. West, will be performed by the UCSC African-American Theater Arts Troupe.

Shocking, provocative, enticing, alarming, dramatic, moving, with a touch of song and dance--Before It Hits Home takes the audience up a roller coaster of challenges young African Americans face today, and drops them into the realistic perspective of surviving a world of misfortune and intolerance. The award-winning play is directed by Don Williams.

Wendel is an African American jazz musician who isolates parts of his life in fear of rejection. Struggling to balance the separate worlds of his personal, professional, and family lives, the conflicting aspects collide when Wendel realizes he has AIDS. Wendel makes the issues of child abandonment, bisexuality, and disease a reality for his family when he seeks sanctuary at home.

Performances of the show will be at 8 p.m. on February 15 and 16 at UCSC's Second Stage, with a matinee performance at 3 p.m. on February 17. Tickets, available at the door only, are $10 for general admission and $6 for students. Performances will also be at 8 p.m. at Louden Nelson Community Center on February 22-23.

Now in its eleventh season, the African-American Theater Arts Troupe serves to enhance the climate of cultural diversity on campus and in the community. The troupe focuses on the recruitment, recognition, and retention of underrepresented students by providing a sense of belonging, inclusion, and support. The troupe's main mission is to continue to raise funds for the UCSC African-American Student Life Scholarship Fund.

More than $45,000 has been raised, with scholarships awarded to students of all cultures based on merit, financial need, and participation in the theater arts program. The goal this year is to raise $12,000.

Constitutional issues will take center stage as Theodore M. Shaw, associate director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, discusses "Free Speech and the First Amendment: Are They Compatible?" at 7 p.m. on February 6 in Stevenson College Dining Room.

Shaw has litigated civil rights cases throughout the country at the trial and appellate levels, as well as in the Supreme Court. He has also testified before Congress and state legislatures on numerous occasions and traveled extensively to conferences around the world dealing with civil rights and human rights.

Established in 1940, the defense fund was initially an independent arm of the National Organization for the Advancement of Colored People, but in 1957 the two groups separated entirely. Shaw's appearance is part of the Adlai E. Stevenson Fellow-in-Residence program, an annual event that brings a nationally known figure to Stevenson College and the campus as a whole.

Keith Boykin, the former Executive Director of the National Black Lesbian and Gay Leadership Forum and former special assistant to President Clinton, will give a presentation at 7 p.m. on February 12 at the UC Santa Cruz Media Theater. The event is free and open to the public.

Boykin, author of One More River to Cross: Black and Gay in America, is one of the nation's foremost commentators on issues of race and sexual orientation. Boykin was the highest-ranking openly gay person to be appointed to the White House.

After leaving the White House, Boykin served as executive director of the National Black Lesbian and Gay Leadership Forum, where he was the lead advocate on the interests of black lesbians and gay men nationwide. In his presentation, Keith examines issues of race and their impact on sexual orientation.

The event is sponsored by the UCSC Queers of Color student organization, African-American Student Life Resource and Cultural Center, Educational Opportunity Programs, and the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Network (GLBTN).

Black military history will be explored with a performance by Jim Armstead, a professor at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey. Armstead will portray Benjamin O. Davis Jr., the second black general in the U.S. military. Doors will open at 6:45 p.m. in Cowell College Dining Hall on February 7. Armstead will offer a glimpse into the life of the general, and afterward, and will answer questions in character. Those wanting to have dinner at Cowell beforehand must arrange tickets in advance. For more information, call (831) 459-2255.

Racial segregation will be the focus of "Jim Crow and the Workplace," a presentation by Paul Ortiz, assistant professor of community studies, at noon on February 15 at the Bay Tree Conference Center, Room D. Ortiz, coeditor and research coordinator of Remembering Jim Crow: African Americans Talk About the South, will present research, oral history, and slides on the African American experience during the period of segregation known as Jim Crow.

Another perspective will be offered by the student-produced documentary, UCSC: A Glimpse of the Black Experience at 8:30 p.m. on February 9, followed by a discussion, at the College Nine Community Room. There is no charge for the screening.

At 8 p.m. on February 26, Cowell College will host a video interview with Fayard Nicholas, surviving member of the famous tap dancers, the Nicholas Brothers, conducted by a UCSC student. Clips from the all-black musical Stormy Weather (1943), which starred the Nicholas Brothers with Lena Horne and Bill ("Bojangles") Robinson, will also be shown.

Porter College starts its black history celebration a little early, on January 30, with a College Night featuring American foods influenced by African culture, and excerpts from the African-American Theater Arts Troupe's production of Before It Hits Home. The 5 to 6:30 p.m. event includes a buffet dinner, costing $6.75 at the door. The public is welcome.

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