By February 8, 2019 0 Comments Read More →

Black History Month


Black History Month
By John Ervin

It is that time of the year where we celebrate Black History Month, which is also celebrated in Canada, United Kingdom and the Netherlands. However, in all actuality, one month out of the year does not begin to celebrate the work, life, accomplishments, achievements and challenges of African Americans in the United States and around the world. Literally, every day is a day in Black history. The recognition of Black history began in 1926 as Negro History Week by the Harvard educated and noted American Historian Dr. Carter G. Woodson. Dr. Woodson chose the month of February because two men he admired most Frederick Douglas a former slave and outspoken abolitionist and President Abraham Lincoln, architect of the Emancipation Proclamation which ended slavery celebrated their birthdays the second week of February. As a former slave, Fredrick Douglas designated his birthday February 14, because he did not know his exact birthday and so admired president Lincoln that he chose the same month and week of his birthday. Over the years, Modesto has been host to many icons of the civil rights movement including, John Lewis, Julian Bond, Dick Gregory, Maya Angelo, Cornell Wes, (Muhammad Ali‘s daughter) Maryum Ali and Danny Glover.

As we prepare to celebrate the accomplishments, work, life advocacy and achievements of African Americans in the greater Modesto area. I will focus on the arts and in particular Theater Arts. Four friends who had a love and appreciation for theater founded the Sankofa Theatre Company, the first and only African American theater company in Modesto in 2013. Co-Founders John Ervin III, Elizabeth Garmon, Cheryl Mitchell-Knox and Greg Savage wanted to bring more of African American experience to the stage in Modesto. They began to charter the course for Sankofa after performing in the Prospect Theater and Gallo Center for The Arts production of To Kill a Mocking Bird.

Since its founding Sankofa Theatre Company has produced many plays and conducted a few theater workshops for youth. Sankofa has produced such plays as August Wilson’s Piano Lesson, and Fences. In addition, other noted work such as Looking over the Presidents Shoulder, Tawawa House, Freedom Riders, Exonerated, African American Journey, and Colored People’s Time, which were all staged at the Gallo Center for The Arts. Freedom Riders was also performed at the Grand Theatre for the Arts in Tracy. Sankofa also produced Coretta …The life and times of Coretta Scott-King at the State Theater.

Sankofa continues to bring to the forefront of our community the African American experience through the performing arts. Sankofa’s upcoming play co-produced with the Gallo Center for The Arts is A Raisin in the Sun. This classic work written by Lorraine Hansberry the first African American woman to have her play produced on Broadway (1959) as well as the first with a black director, Lloyd Richards and received four Tony Award nominations. The story comes from the poem Harlem by Langston Hughes one of the leaders of the Harlem Renaissance. It tells the story of a black family’s experience in Chicago’s South Side as they attempt to better their lives and that of their future generations with an insurance payout following the death of the father.

Sankofa will continue to bring to life the African American experience, while introducing, cultivating, and mentoring a new generation of actors and behind the scenes talent from our young people in our community. Please come out and see A Raisin in the Sun at The Gallo Center for The Arts.

Black History Month Event Calendar:
February 8th- San Joaquin Delta College and University of The Pacific Presents: A Tribute to the Queen of Soul “Aretha Franklin” with special guest, the Hamiltones, 6:00pm-8:00pm.
February 15th, 16th and 17th- Sankofa Theatre Company and the Gallo Center for The Arts Presents: A Raisin in the Sun. show times; 7:30pm on February 15, 16th, and 2:00pm on February 17 at the Gallo Center for The Arts.
February 15th, 16th, and 17th- Sankofa Theatre Co. Presents: Black History Vendor Showcase and Pre-Show Entertainment, Gallo Center for the Arts 5:30pm-10:30pm February 15 and 16th and 12:30- 5:30pm, February 17.
February 22nd, King Kennedy Memorial Center Board of Directors presents a Black History Program- King Kennedy Memorial Center 601 N. Martin Luther King Dr. 6:00pm-8:00pm
February 23rd- MJC African American Education Conference, Modesto Junior College Mary Stuart Rogers Student Center, 8:00am-3:00pm.
February 23rd Gallo Center for the Arts presents Alvin Ailey II, 8pm
February 26th, San Joaquin Delta College presents the Tuskegee Airman…their heritage and legacy lives on! South Forum, 12:30pm-2:00pm
End February CSU Stanislaus presents Performance Artist and Educator A.D. Carson, PHD. Term One: A Mixtape.

John Ervin III Is a Mentor, Founder and CEO of the Project UPLIFT Mentoring Program
P.O. Box 1716 Modesto, CA 95353 (209) 683-9049

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About the Author:

Chris Murphy is the President and CEO of Sierra Pacific Warehouse Group and Publisher and Founder of ModestoView Inc. Chris worked globally in the cycling industry returning to Modesto in 1996. He is also the founder of the Modesto Historic Graffiti Cruise Route, Legends of the Cruise Walk of Fame, Modesto Rockin’ Holiday, the Modesto Music History Organization and co-founder of the Modesto Area Music Association. Chris is married to his artist wife Rebecca since 1985 and has two daughters Madison and Abigail, both graduating from Modesto High and UC Berkeley. He is lead singer and guitarist for his band, Third Party that donates their performances to non-profits.