LBC Celebrates Black History
By Dianne Anderson
What started as a one-room Black History Month showing has now turned into a major 26,000 square foot experience where thousands of Long Beachers will turn out for three mostly free full days to take in all of the rare artifacts, arts and entertainment.
“Now it’s an entire building. It was a labor of love to bring to the community to inform and educate the community about what we have contributed as a people,” said community advocate, LaVerne Duncan, who started the event five years ago.
The event, “Forgotten Images: Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow,” is presented by the Andy Street Community Association in partnership with the Office of Councilmember Al Austin and Bixby Knolls Business Improvement Association, and the Port of Long Beach. It will be held at the Expo Arts Center at 4321 Atlantic Ave.
Over the years, both the awareness and the location have grown, and not a moment too soon considering the current political environment.
She said there will be plenty of music, food vendors, a youth day with youth performers. The secondary exhibit looks at the history of Confederate statues.
“I have images of the [Confederate] statues that are being taken down, but I’m putting up the facts about what those statues meant. It’s not about heritage, it’s about Jim Crow and the backlash against the civil rights movement,” she said.
This Thursday, February 1 from 5-9:00 p.m., the event kicks off with small business outreach sessions, as Goldman Sachs holds its 10,000 Small Businesses Reception featuring several panelists. Noted economic development practitioner Tunua Thrash-Ntuk is the featured speaker.
On Friday, February 2, the community is also invited to visit the Wall of Excellence, a recognition for African American leaders.
Nationally acclaimed artifacts of the Forgotten Images collection are featured from 6-10:00 p.m. where Sharon and David McLucas are presenting their rare exhibit with over 5,000 authenticated and rare artifacts dating back to slavery, and the 1800’s.
She said this is their biggest showing.
“They are always adding new stuff, the newest that they’ve added is just priceless. You have to be in the atmosphere and just feel it. It’s really a great exhibit,” Duncan said.
Also staged, the Black History Month event features a special reading of “Lady Patriot,” a Ted Lange play describing the life of a freed slave, who went undercover in the Jefferson Davis White House to take down the Confederacy. She said that event costs $25 to accommodate the actors, but the rest of the events are free.
On Saturday, February 3, a mother and daughter who co-authored a children’s book will provide storytime for the kids in the morning. From 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., they are also hosting an inter-generational panel from middle schoolers to 70-year-olds to talk about truth in history.
“No drama, just the facts. Our kids need to hear the facts about where we came from, and what this is all about, where we are today,” she said.
“There’s so much for families to see and learn and enjoy. It really is a family oriented, enjoyable educational experience for everyone,” she said.
A free community concert with a choir and a young Christian artist are closing out the weekend. Vendors will also be tabling important information with resources for social progress.
So far, she is getting calls from all over, and as far out as the Inland Empire.
“The Port [of Long Beach] is coming out, we have the city coming out,” she said. “This is as big as it’s ever been. It’s the only type of exhibit in this area like that. We have everything going on.”
Duncan, who first developed the Andy Street Community Association project 18 years ago, said it’s been important to keep the event going for the community. Her goal is to keep local programming free for families to participate in honoring the African American experience.
“It is a labor of love because I don’t want to charge,” she said. “Everything else [besides the play] is free for the people to come and enjoy and learn. They get to see this amazing exhibit for free.”