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Cicely Tyson, 96, passed away on January 28

This week WGO is going light in honor of the onset of BLACK HISTORY MONTH. Column content focuses on news through the lens of Black Americana in politics, arts and culture.
Upcoming WGO items for February will include: Governor Cuomo’s undercounting of COVID19 fatality stats at nursing homes during the 2020 surge (which is currently on NYS Attorney General Letitia James’ radar screen); and the NYS Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie’ initiative to review job possibilities for post Pandemic New York’s unemployed. Foregoing is good red meat for WGO February columns.

August Wilson

BLACK HISTORY MONTH
ANCESTRAL IMAGES: President Joe Biden’s Administration revisits effort to replace the Andrew Jackson image on $20 bills with the image of Harriet Tubman, African American abolitionist and political activist. Born into slavery around 1822, she escaped to the north in 1849, before escorting hundreds of enslaved Africans to freedom through her Underground Railroad. The plan for the Tubman image was to be put into effect by 2020 according to President Obama. POTUS 45 rejected the $20 image change. …… Celebrated American Pulitzer winning playwright August Wilson, whose 10 plays, including “The Piano Lesson,” “Jitney,” “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” and “Fences” about the 20th Century’s Black American experience, earned another distinction last week. His image dons the 44th stamp in the US Post Office’s Black Heritage Series.

FILM/TV/TALKS: The 28th NY African Film Festival, presented by Film At Lincoln Center, Maysles Cinema, and Mahen Bonetti’s African Film Festival, the incomparable mix of feature films, documentaries, and shorts, begins at the FLC Virtual Center from 2/4 to 2/14 and from the Maysles Virtual Center from 2/18 to March 4. The Nigerian thriller “The Milkmaid” is a 2021 Academy Award entry for Best International feature film. Other NY AFF titles include “A Day with Jerusa,” from Brazil; “Our Lady Of the Nile;” and “Invisible Husband.” For NYAFF calendar and ticket sales info, visit AFRICANFILMNY.ORG.
A new documentary, “TUSKEGEE AIRMEN: Legacy of Courage,” executive produced and narrated by GMA anchor Robin Roberts, whose dad was a Tuskegee Airman, premiers on The History Channel on February 10 at 8 pm. ET/PT.
The York College BHM Committee and the Greater Queens Chapter of The Links present the 2021 AFRICAN AMERICAN VIRTUAL READ-IN, featuring Bakara Sellers, CNN Analyst/Author of “My Vanishing Country” and Cheryl Wills, NY1-TV Anchor/author of “The Emancipation of Grandpa Sandy Wills,” on February 6 at 2 pm. Contact Dr. Jean Phelps@jphelps@york.cuny.edu.

Cheryl Wills


TV’s stellar anchors Cheryl Wills and Lewis Dodley will co-host a 60-minute show, BLACK HISTORY IN THE MAKING, a NY1 SPECIAL, which includes a segment about the impact of the COVID19 shutdown and its impact on artists such as David Alan Grier, LaTanya Richardson Jackson, Daniel J. Watts and Vy Higginsen, and which airs on February 18 at 8 pm.
The NY Public Library co-hosts a TALK, “Charles Blow with Hilton Alts,” New Yorker Magazine writer, on Tuesday, February 23 at 8 pm. Blow is a NY Times op-ed writer, whose new book “The Devil You Know: A Black Power Manifesto” is a “call to action for Black Americans to amass political power and fight white supremacy.” His 1/8 NYT op-ed WE NEED A SECOND GREAT MIGRATION argues in favor of a Black reverse migration to the South; and it is a good “Devil You Know” teaser for short-form readers. A son of the South who lived in Brooklyn for almost 30 years, Charles Blow now calls Atlanta home. The Blow/Alts Talk will be streamed on Zoom and simulcast to YouTube. Email: publicprograms@nypl.org

Charles Blow


MUSIC: The 5th Annual Collaboration – Harlem Classical Music Celebration with Three on 3 Music; Opera Ebony; and Harlem Opera Theater, runs from February 13 – 27. On February 13: The Fifth Annual Negro Spiritual Symposium with host Patrice P. Eaton and moderators Dr, Louise Toppin and Dr, Brandon Waddles. Visit facebook.com/Threeon3Music. On 2/20, Opera Ebony presents “Benjamin Matthews Remembered.” A bass baritone, Matthews was an Opera Ebony co-founder. Visit Operaebony.org; On 2/27, Harlem Opera presents A Tribute to Composer Samuel Coleridge Taylor aka Black Mahler, with Gregory Hopkins, Artistic Director. Visit harlemoperatheater.org.
JOURNALISM: Professor A. Peter Bailey, noted journalist who wrote for Ebony, Jet, Black Enterprise the Negro Digest and author of memoirs about Malcolm X and Alvin Ailey. joins the Our Time Press family as Chief Journalist: African American History, beginning February 11.

NEWSMAKERS
RIP: Beloved Henrietta James, 73, passed away last month in Bronx, NY. Born in Antigua, British West Indies, her family relocated to New York where she attended and graduated from public schools and college before plying her trade as a registered nurse. She worked at Bellevue Hospital for decades and retired as its Director of Nursing. A member of the Black Nurses Association, she established the Antigua and Barbuda Nursing Association.

Cicely Tyson

RIP: Native New Yorker Cicely Tyson, 96, passed away on January 28. The award winning actress – Oscar, Emmy and Tony – worked in film, theater and TV, Tyson rejected roles unbecoming to Black women, which cut dramatically into her revenue streams. For 70 years, she portrayed purposeful and proud characters in films like “Sounder,” TV films like “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman,” ROOTS, the miniseries in which she played Kunta Kinte’s mother and in the Broadway revival, THE TRIP TO BOUNTIFUL for which she won a Tony at age 88. A trailblazing actress, who loved her craft, she was never too busy to mentor GenX actors. She was also a fashion and style icon. The daughter of West Indian immigrants from Nevis, she grew up in a religious household in East Harlem and studied at the Actors Studio. Twice married, once to Miles Davis, her private life was guarded. She does have a daughter named Joan. Last week, she had a prohibitively busy virtual publicity schedule to promote her new memoir, JUST AS I AM, a day or two before she transitioned.

FEBRUARY 2021
February is an extraordinary month, rife with holidays and special observations. It hosts BLACK HISTORY MONTH. The month open with Ground Hog’s Day; The Lunar New Year of the Ox, whose natives are considered honest hardworking, trustworthy and logical, 12; Valentine’s Day, 14; Presidents Day, 15; Fat Tuesday,16; and Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, 17

A Harlem-based brand consultant and media specialist, Victoria is reachable at victoria.horsford@gmail.com

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