Black History Month and more at the Chilmark library


Every Wednesday in February, at 5 pm, there will be a Black History Month event at the Chilmark library. According to a press release, starting off the month, on Feb. 7, Linsey Lee from the Martha’s Vineyard Museum will be back at the library to present more oral histories from Islanders. This month she will give a presentation titled “Voices From the Vineyard’s African American Community: Tales in Film and Audio from the Oral History Collection of the Martha’s Vineyard Museum.” Video and audio shown will cover a range of black history on Martha’s Vineyard, starting with the Shearer Summer Theater. The Shearer Summer Cottage was the first black-owned inn on Martha’s Vineyard, and it became, from the 1940s to the 1970s, a performance center for black actors and performers. Ms. Lee will also play audio interviews from Vineyarders about J.F.K.’s assassination, the Bradley Memorial Church, the Polar Bears, the Cottagers, being a Tuskegee Airman during WWII, and an interview with Dorothy West about her need for writing and self-expression.

On Feb. 14, Dr. Elaine Weintraub, co-founder of the African American Heritage Trail of Martha’s Vineyard, and Carrie Tankard, vice president of the MV NAACP, will be at the Chilmark library. The African American Heritage Trail of Martha’s Vineyard began as a promise to a small boy to help him find the black history of the Island, and is now a constantly growing physical trail of 27 sites, and directs a program of cultural studies. The founders of the trail, Weintraub and Tankard, will share the story of the building of the trail, using visuals to tell the story. The photographs of the founders of the Island’s chapter of the NAACP will be on display, and Weintraub will lead us through the story of the trail from its inception to the present day.

Tankard is not only the co-founder of the Trail but also the first vice president of the local chapter of the NAACP, and she will give a presentation on how the Island chapter was formed, focusing on the story of the five Vineyard women who were so significant among the founders of the chapter. Questions are invited, and the speakers hope for an exciting interactive session.

On Feb. 21, the library will show the documentary “The Passionate Pursuits of Angela Bowen” as part of the M.V. Women’s Committee Winter Film Series. Throughout February and March the M.V. Women’s Committee will be screening movies by and about women across the Island. This movie will focus on Angela Bowen, a dancer and artist who grew up in Boston and later formed a dance school for low-income kids in New Haven, Conn. This inspiring film is by awardwinning documentary filmmaker Jennifer Abod, who wrote and directed “The Edge of Each Other’s Battles: The Vision of Audre Lorde,” and this film has won numerous awards, including the audience award for best documentary film at the Tampa International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, the audience award for best feature film at the New Haven Documentary Film Festival, and winner for the U.S. history category at PBS’s To the Contrary Film Festival.

Angela Bowen channeled her art and dance into social activism and education, becoming the first recipient of a Ph.D. in women’s studies and African American history at Clark University. For six decades Bowen, classical dancer and teacher, black lesbian feminist activist, and professor, has influenced and inspired untold numbers, speaking out as strongly for the arts, black and women’s rights as she has for LGTBQ rights. A member of the Women’s Committee will be at the screening to facilitate discussion after the film. Please see for more information about the film series.

To end the month, on Feb. 28, local writer and former radio broadcast executive Skip Finley will be at the Chilmark library to give a presentation titled “Voyage of Discovery — Vineyard Whaling Captains of Color.” This presentation will focus on what Finley has discovered through years of research for his upcoming book on the subject. According to ship logs Finley has gone through, 20 to 40 percent of whaling captains were men of color, many with ties to Martha’s Vineyard. According to Finley, “As difficult, dangerous, and sometimes financially unrewarding as whaling was, it still beat slavery by miles … A few [men] even overcame all the odds and rose through the ranks to command ships.” Finley’s talk and upcoming book are an important exploration of this forgotten segment of American and Martha’s Vineyard maritime history.

Local artist Jennifer Burkin will be leading a six-week acrylic painting workshop at the library from 10:30 to 12:30 on Feb 7, 14, and 28, March 7, 14, and 21. Burkin will lead the class in learning basic painting techniques, and give demonstrations of different techniques. This class is free and all supplies are provided, but space is very limited, so contact the library today to sign up. The library asks that participants commit to attending all six weeks.

During normal business hours when the community room is not occupied for other events, the Chilmark library will be live-streaming the Winter Olympics! Join them to cheer on the teams while enjoying some coffee or tea. Ongoing weekly events include storytime every Tuesday and Saturday at 10:30 am, and every Wednesday from 3 pm to 4 pm, afterschool crafts for kids.