African American program: Dignitaries, music and genealogy
Henry Louis Gates Jr. will headline the Eighth Annual Summer Signature Event held by the Martha's Vineyard Branch of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH). The event will be at the Performing Arts Center at the Martha's Vineyard Regional High School, this Sunday, August 17, from 2 to 4 pm. A suggested donation of $15 will help support ASALH's educational programs.
The topic of Mr. Gates' illustrated presentation will be "African American Lives," the title of his PBS series, which uses genealogy and science to shed light on African American history. Currently, Mr. Gates is the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and the director of the W.E.B. DuBois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard University. Widely published, he was chairman of the department of African and African American Studies at Harvard from 1991-2006.
Founded in 1915 by Carter G. Woodson, long considered the "father" of African American History, ASALH's mission is "to promote, research, preserve, interpret and disseminate information about Black life, history and culture to the global community." Based in Washington, D.C., ASALH is made up of individual and institutional members. Members receive the quarterly publication, Journal of African American History, and elementary and high school teachers are provided with the Black History Bulletin, a teaching guide. The organization is also involved in the restoration of Mr. Woodson's home in Washington.
ASALH is the official sponsor of Black History Month, February, but their educational efforts run year-round, and not just in schools. Recently ASALH sponsored a national high school essay contest.
Photo by Ralph Stewart
Mr. Woodson started branches of the organization in communities across the country. Established in 2002, The Martha's Vineyard Branch is currently headed by Robert C. Hayden, president, Elizabeth B. Rawlins, vice-president, Patricia A. Mathews, treasurer, and Lois Jean White, secretary. The branch supports the study of African American history and life in Island schools, homes, churches, and community groups.
Sunday's event will start with an invocation by Preston N. Williams, a seasonal resident of Chilmark who is the Houghton Research Professor of Theology and Contemporary Change and director of the Summer Leadership Institute at Harvard Divinity School.
Before and following Mr. Gates' talk, the 20-member choir of the Martha's Vineyard NAACP, all Island residents, will perform under the direction of Lawrence C. Watson, who is on the faculty of the Berklee College of Music in Boston. Finally there will be a raffle of model of a P-51 Mustang, a fighter aircraft flown by the Tuskegee Airmen.
For more information about the local ASALH Branch, write P.O. Box 2182, Oak Bluffs, MA 02557.