Director's Note: Museum Celebrates Black History Month

Actor and playwright, Mike Wiley (center), performs as Jackie Robinson in his one-man play, A Game Apart,
at Albert Harris Elementary School on Feb 3. Wiley's performance was part of Piedmont Arts' educational outreach to local schools.

As we celebrate Black History Month at Piedmont Arts, it is timely to take a moment to examine why it is important for museums to explore and examine the diverse cultures that make up our community and the events that have shaped us. Fostering understanding of where we come from, exploring the past and finding common ground are important to creating a cohesive community. Black History Month allows us to come together to celebrate the rich traditions and contributions of African Americans, while also correcting misrepresentations of African American culture.

Mike Wiley performs the play Dar He in front of a
projected image of 14-year-old Emmett Till. Around 200
people attended the performance presented by Piedmont Arts.
On February 2, Piedmont Arts brought award-winning actor Mike Wiley to Rives Theatre to perform Dar He: The Story of Emmet Till. Wiley told the story of the Chicago youth who traveled to the Mississippi Delta and entered a world he could never understand—a world with thick color lines, of hard-held class systems and unspeakable taboos. Till’s travels to the Deep South ended in his death and some have seen the event as one that sparked the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement. Piedmont Arts also sponsored two in-school performances, with Wiley performing his one-man play, A Man Apart: The Story of Jackie Robinson. Exploring the painful events of the past and seeing where we have come from are important to fostering understanding in the future.

Black History Month provides a great opportunity to open dialogues and personal interactions between cultures. On Saturday, February 21, Piedmont Arts will participate in the Twenty-Sixth National African American Read-In with the African American Read-In and Family Day at the museum. Individuals from all backgrounds and cultures are invited to celebrate African American literature, by reading excerpts from their favorite African American authors and poets. The event will also include award-winning storyteller Fred Motley. 

Storyteller Fred Motley will direct TheatreWorks'
production of A Raisin in the Sun and perform at
Piedmont Arts' African American Read-In and
Family Day on Sat, Feb 21 at the museum.
Also in February, Piedmont Arts Community Partner TheatreWorks, will present the play, A Raisin in the Sun. The play premieres February 20 and runs through February 28. Set in the 1950s on Chicago's South Side, the play details the tensions and prejudice faced by three generations of the Youngers, an African American family, and their heroic struggle to retain dignity in a harsh and changing world.

In a recent article in Museum magazine discussing civil rights museums, author Jeff Levine writes, “Civil rights museums hope to educate without preaching, inspire without pandering and, while rethinking the evils of the past, avoid casting a pall on the future.” We hope that by holding events like the African American Read-In and bringing performers like Mike Wiley to our community, we can spark conversations which can lead to better understanding and appreciation for our past and what has shaped us as human beings.

Levine concludes his article with, “It is in the end not just about race, or even civil rights. It is about who we are and what we will become.” At Piedmont Arts, we value the diverse cultures that make up our community and welcome the opportunity to explore what has brought us to this point in time and what we will become.

In the fall of 2015, we will be exploring and celebrating Latino/Hispanic culture…stay tuned for more information on this exciting line-up of events!




Director's Note is a monthly blog by Piedmont Arts Executive Director Kathy Rogers examining the impact of the arts in our community. 

Contact Kathy at kathyrogers@piedmontarts.org.


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