African-American Cultural Celebration kicks off Black History Month

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RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Raleigh kicked off Black History Month on Saturday with the 16th Annual African-American Cultural Celebration at the North Carolina State Museum of History.

“This is something that is very energetic, it is cultural in an inter-disciplinary way because there are three separate floors of activities, of presentations, of performances for all generations. It’s a very dynamic and energetic event,” Michelle Lanier said.

Lanier serves as director of the North Carolina African American Heritage Commission. Lanier said she hopes the many children in attendance will understand that African American history is American history and global history.

She also wants to emphasize historical figures and events in North Carolina’s history.

“Black History Month certainly is a real important time for us to come together and celebrate, but it also is something that we need to be celebrating all year long,” she said.

“From Thelonious Monk to Nina Simone to the Greensboro sit ins, to the Wilmington 10, to the oldest historically black university in the south. People like Anna Julia Cooper, an early black feminist writer, these are people who have touched lives all over the world and it’s important for us to take pride and ownership of these stories and celebrate these stories together,” Lanier said.

Lanier said she was thrilled that newly-elected Governor Roy Cooper attended the event. She said this is the first time a North Carolina governor took part.

“One of the challenges we face as a state and a country is opening our minds to try to hear what other people are saying. This kind of celebration today of learning and being together can be a catalyst for that and I’m glad to be here,” Cooper said.

“African American history is something that shows us pain, struggle, but also triumph. It’s critically important here in North Carolina that we learn about our past and that we try to make things better for people today by learning lessons from the past,” Cooper added.

Artist Bennie Baker said the governor’s attendance makes a statement that what the event exhibitors and educators are doing is important. Baker said the cultural celebration is a necessary event because he feels young people do not know much about the history of African Americans.

Erica Savage, a recent student at North Carolina Central University, wore a t-shirt with the slogan Black History Matters.

“Black history matters to me because it wasn’t really taught when I was in school. We basically heard about slavery and that was about it. But there’s much more to black history,” Savage said.

“I think it’s very important for myself to come out here and learn more about it and be surrounded by this culture today.”

Dancers and drumlines and other performers entertained a large crowd at the North Carolina Museum of History.

The museum will have some Black History Month exhibits throughout February. There is also a special exhibit through June about civil rights marches in Alabama.

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