While COVID-19 has halted more than a few celebrations over the past year, the 20th Annual African American Cultural Celebration, sponsored by the North Carolina Museum of History, is still on(line) for Saturday.
The celebration has adjusted to an entirely virtual setting this year, enabling the Museum of History to expand to an unprecedented statewide audience.
Adrienne Nirdé, the associate director of the North Carolina African American Heritage Commission, said attendees can sign up for individual events that collectively represent a little bit of everything.
“There are going to be artists and craftspeople of all sorts showing off their talents,” Nirdé said. “I know we at the office are very excited that the 105 Voices of History National HBCU Choir is going to be doing a performance of 'Lift Every Voice and Sing,' which might be considered to be the Black national anthem.”
Every year, the museum’s African American Cultural Celebration has a theme, with this year’s being health and healing. Nirdé said most artists and speakers will relate their presentations to both physical and mental wellness.
“I think in this context, it's great to have a little bit of celebration and a little bit of self-care,” Nirdé said. “I think it's a wonderful combination.”
Tonya Armstrong, a Durham-based psychologist and one of the cultural celebration’s presenters, will discuss the importance of mental well-being in her presentation, “A Black Woman’s Guide to Self-Care During COVID-19.”
Armstrong said many of the principles she will talk about in her sessions come from her book, "Blossoming Hope: The Black Christian Woman's Guide to Mental Health and Wellness."
“As a therapist, I find that even after sort of dealing head on with mental health disorders, there is still a pretty obvious dearth of understanding that we have about how important self-care is,” Armstrong said. “I think especially for African American women, there can be this sense that somehow, we don't deserve this self-care, and we don't have time for self-care.”
While the presentation focuses on the importance of mental health of women within Black communities, Armstrong encourages anyone interested to attend her presentation at 2:30 p.m.
“One of the things that's important about a session on Black women is acknowledging our history and our unique path in terms of the journey that we've had in the U.S.,” Armstrong said. “So while it’s not exclusive, it does give special attention to what it means to be a Black Christian woman and how our history can actually inform the way we move into self-care in the future.”
Valerie Johnson, chairperson of the NCAAHC and dean of the Shaw University School of Arts, Sciences and Humanities, said she feels the current social climate allows for a much more meaningful and opportune celebration, even if it is on a digital platform.
“Because we're in a fractious place in our national conversation, there is an opportunity for us to also celebrate some of the things that are going well in our society,” Johnson said. “We’re showing off for ourselves: what we can create, how we exist in the world, what North Carolinians do and are able to produce. All of that reminds us that we are a community and that we can act civil towards and appreciate one another.”
As a commissioner on the North Carolina Historical Commission, Johnson is grateful to introduce North Carolinians to local Black artists and members of grassroots movements.
“This celebration allows us to preserve, promote and protect African American culture and heritage,” Johnson said. “It also shows the contributions of Black folks and that the stereotypes that exist are just that: they’re stereotypes. They're fiction — things that are not true in the real world. These are the folks who are contributing to the richness of our state.”
Anyone interested is welcome to view the event schedule and register for a variety of presentations and performances at the N.C. Museum of History’s website, ncmuseumofhistory.org. All museum-produced videos will include closed captions, and many live sessions will also feature sign language interpretations.
“I guess if there’s one takeaway, I want participants to have moments of Black joy,” Nirdé said. “Regardless of what is going on in the world, it's important to look at our heritage and really celebrate it and what beautiful creations have come with it.”
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