Angela Jackson

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Every February, regular as clockwork, African-Americans and their culture come into vogue – oddly enough, for the shortest month of the year. This February, as we pass the first anniversary of an African-American presidency, it is worth pondering, the purpose of African- American History month.

Manning Marable, a Columbia University professor of history and public affairs and a member of New York’s Amistad Commission on African-American history, observed, “It’s not just for black people, it’s for everyone. You can’t teach the history of this country effectively without teaching the contributions and experiences of black people.”  Amen to that.

This February, the Evanston Public Library is offering a variety of programs and activities designed to engage Evanstonians of all races with African-American  history and culture all year long.

Friday Films Series – Every Friday at 3 p.m.

Feb. 5: “When We Were Kings” (PG; 84 minutes; 1996) Community Meeting Room, Main Library

The epic 1974 heavyweight championship fight between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman in Africa provides the basis for this documentary. Assembled from more than 250 hours of footage, “When We Were Kings” focuses on the controversial life and meteoric rise of Ali as well as other events leading up to the well-publicized “Rumble in the Jungle.”

Feb. 12: “What’s Love Got To Do With It?” (Rated R; 119 minutes; 1993) Community Meeting Room,
Main Library

The turbulent life of Tina Turner (played by Angela Bassett) is brought to the screen in this adaptation of the rock performer’s autobiography. This highly acclaimed film uses numerous classic and contemporary Turner songs as it follows the career and life of a truly remarkable woman.

Feb. 19: “Eve’s Bayou” (Rated R; 109 minutes; 1997) Community Meeting Room, Main Library

This is the story of an eccentric family in a predominately black Louisiana town as seen through the eyes of a high-spirited 10-year-old girl (Jurnee Smollett). All of the characters are locked into a series of choices that have profound and surprising consequences.

Author Angela Jackson

Feb. 6, 2 p.m., Community Meeting Room, Main Library

The Evanston Public Library welcomes author Angela Jackson, who will read and sign copies of her new novel, “Where I Must Go,” a young African-American girl’s tale of both privilege and privation during the civil rights movement.

Ms. Jackson is the winner of the 1993 Chicago Sun-Times Book of the Year Award in Poetry for her selected poems “And All These Roads Be Luminous,” and the 1994 Carl Sandburg Award for Poetry for “Dark Legs and Silk Kisses.” This is her first novel.

Literary Discussion

Feb. 10, 8 p.m. African-American Literature Discussion Group: “Where I Must Go,” Community Meeting Room, Main Library

Residents are invited to hear Ms Jackson read on Feb. 6, then come back to discuss the novel. Copies are available at the second floor Reader’s Services Desk.  Register online at epl.org/calendar or by phone at 847- 448-8621.

Exploring Family History

Feb. 14, 3 p.m.: “Tracing Slavery in the Family: One Woman’s Journey,” Community Meeting Room, Main Library

Slavery in this country affected both blacks and whites; its unresolved consequences continue to cause tremors in our communities. Uncovering and exposing one’s own family’s involvement with slavery may be
painful, but it is the best hope for changing hearts
and perceptions.  

Pam Smith has been researching her family’s history since 1991. Her discoveries have led her to Cameroon, Senegal, Benin and Ghana, and to appearances on Lifetime, NPR, and Oprah. She is now writing a book with a descendant of the slaveholding family that once owned hers.

Residents are invited to join Ms. Smith and the Evanston Public Library research team to explore connected pasts and get tips on exploring family history. 

Educating for the Future

Equality of education was a key dream of the civil rights movement, from Little Rock, Ark., to “Ole Miss,” the University of Mississippi. Today, racial barriers may not keep deserving teens out of college, but financial ones certainly do. The Library presents two  timely programs on how to keep the dream of universal education alive for all children.

Feb. 11, 7 p.m. “Plan Your Child’s Future with College Illinois,” Community Meeting Room, Main Library

This workshop is for everyone worried about rising college tuition costs and shrinking investments. College Illinois is the state’s prepaid tuition plan. More insurance than investment, College Illinois is the smart, secure college funding option. College Illinois representative Tonya Polk will give an overview for parents. Register online at epl.org/calendar or call 847-448-8630.

Feb. 22, 7-8:30 p.m. “FAFSA Help,” Computer  Training Room, Main Library

Everyone who needs help navigating the Free
Application for Federal Student Aid process can hear Lacy Wood of the Illinois Student Assistance Commission walk them through filling out the FAFSA. For teens and adults. Register online at epl.org/teencal or by calling 847-448-8625.