Cheers for a Black Planet

An African wrap doll like the ones students can make at the Crest Theatre

February is Black History Month, a time to celebrate and reflect on the contributions African-Americans have made to American culture. But instead of merely focusing on George Washington Carver's peanut research or Philip Emeagwali's invention of the Internet (that's enough out of you, Al), the Broward County Library is taking a broader approach with "Africans in the Diaspora: Contributions to the New Millennium."

The library plans an array of author programs, exhibits, children's programs, and workshops to laud the African influence on not just American but global culture. While several exhibits have already begun, the official opening reception for the events takes place at 6 p.m. Saturday at the main library. The free reception includes presentations on African arts, folklore, and music by a six-piece djembe drum ensemble and the Miami Pan Symphony Steel Orchestra, a 22-member youth orchestra whose members range in age from 7 to 18. The reception kicks off a monthlong series of events throughout the library system, which will include forums on genealogical research and law and race; Kiswahili language classes; and author lectures.

In Palm Beach County, the Crest Theatre in Delray Beach will be hosting another kickoff fest for Black History Month. Called "A Gathering of Kuumba," this celebration of African artistic endeavors will be held Saturday from 1 to 9 p.m. and Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m. The art exhibit features pieces by artists of African descent, including Daphne Dowell, Anthony Burk, Barbara Cheives, and Kianga Hanif. Dowell will also teach an African Wrap- Doll Workshop for mother-daughter or grandmother-granddaughter pairs Thursday, February 15, in the Crest Theatre. The workshop costs $25 and teaches women to make traditional African dolls.

All these events show that African contributions to American and world culture amount to far more than just peanuts.

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