The Unity Center of Peace in Chapel Hill is celebrating Black History Month through poetry readings, unique artwork displays and presentations.
The Unity Center of Peace is a local organization that builds on unity to engage people in spiritual learning and growth through each Sunday service. Unity is not based on a specific religion, but seeks to teach a better understanding of spiritual nature and how it impacts people’s physical lives.
“We have been wanting for so long to be a more diverse community,” said Victoria Loveland-Coen, senior minister at the UCP. “It’s one thing to desire to be more diverse, but it’s another thing to do some outreach and come up with a plan and say this is what we're gonna do. We're gonna get more African American representation so that people can feel more comfortable.”
The UCP plans to honor a different African American poet each week by offering readings of their poems during Sunday services.
Jaki Shelton Green, North Carolina’s first African American Poet Laureate, will be specially recognized by the UCP for Black History Month. There will be a variety of books by Green available for purchase after service each Sunday in February.
The UCP is also trying to raise awareness of African American history in America by providing information on African American inventors that often go unrecognized.
In addition, other poets will also be honored including Nikki Giovanni, Lucille Clifton and June Millicent Jordan.
On Feb. 9, UCP member Vibrance Heartfelt will give a free presentation, titled “Experiencing Ghana,” in which she will delve into her experiences while living in West Africa.
Heartfelt created this five-minute documentary film of her experiences in Ghana while studying ethnomusicology, the study of music and culture as it relates to a people.
In addition to presenting her short film, Heartfelt will showcase many artifacts she collected from Ghana, including instruments, clothing and jewelry that the audience can engage with.
“People can handle it, see it and understand the talents that go behind it,” Heartfelt said.
Immediately following the presentation, a reception will be held for Damita (Momita) Hicks, a local African American artist, to showcase her artwork.
Hicks has been creating artwork for more than 50 years, beginning when she was a child.
“It was a comment my sister made that noses don't look like that,” Hicks said. “Then my quest started when I was eight or nine years old just to find out what do noses look like?”
Hicks uses a variety of mediums, including pencils, watercolors, acrylics and a medium she created called “Crayonhicks.” The style is a sort of painting that utilizes crayons to create vivid colors and contrasting textures.
Hicks said her idea to use crayons as a medium started when she was in college and had struck up a conversation with a man in the dining hall.
“He told me that he likes the kind of art you can feel — and, well, he was blind,” Hicks said. “I felt really sad — I wanted to figure out a way to paint where a person who was visually impaired could enjoy my art as well. It came to me that crayons could create texture when they're melted.”
Hicks work will be on display at The Unity Center of Peace through March 31.
“It’s just beautiful, vibrant, colorful, just makes the whole place come alive,” Loveland-Coen said. “We're so thrilled to have her.”
In addition to showcasing her artwork, Hicks said she does presentations as a way to provide racial healing through art.
“I hope that people are introduced to new ways of looking at life,” Loveland-Coen said. “Whenever you look at the experience and history of another group, you gain a whole new perspective — to have compassion and understanding, it's just so important in our society.”
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