Bethany Arts Community in Ossining celebrates Black History Month with a month of programs
Today marks the start of Black History Month, and an award-winning exhibit is educating the Hudson Valley on Black culture.
News 12's Samantha Crawford is at the Bethany Arts Community in Ossining checking this year's Black History Month exhibition.
Officials say their Black History and Culture - Fulfilling the Vision exhibition will have galleries which will highlight the steps taken by Black visionaries in our neighborhoods who worked diligently, intentionally, and purposefully to uplift the Black race in Westchester and beyond.
The exhibition will utilize oral history accounts and genealogical research to unearth the histories of Black entrepreneurs, organizations, and lawmakers from all facets of the community's business and social life.
One area brings history to life with actors portraying legendary Madam C.J. Walker, the first self-made female millionaire in the U.S.
The exhibit takes you back in time – starting in 1908. "If you're from the North, you're going to be able to vote but you're going to vote Republican. But if you're from the South, you're going to take a literacy test, and you're going to take 30 seconds to answer 64 questions, which you will not be able to answer. I am teaching you how voter suppression worked in the South," says curator Joyce Sharrock-Cole.
Visitors will also see what a Black child's bedroom looked like in the 1980s - filled with toys that didn't look like them. "I had a lot of Barbie dolls, and I never saw any dolls that represented the Black community or any other ethnic background," says Bonnie Bradley, Executive Director. "This is amazing how it's evolved with now, we have toys of all ethnic backgrounds that children can relate to."
There is also art on display, with works that celebrate the now more widely accepted beauty of Black people's natural hair. "I've watched each generation gone through changes. My hair like it is now - in an afro - would not have been acceptable in my family's mindset," says Bethany studio artist Jan Smith Castronuovo.
The collection tells the story of countless Black people from Westchester County, many people that that students likely have not learned about in school textbooks. They are people who went against the grain to make everything what goes on today possible, including the possibility for a Black person to run for political office, to win and to be well-respected. "If it were not for them, I probably would not be standing here talking to you today. I probably would not have the opportunity that was presented to me to share our history, that it would be welcomed in our communities, that people would even want to learn," said Sharrock-Cole.
Other programming will include concerts, talks (including a talk with Madam CJ Walker's great-granddaughter A'Lelia Bundles), curator tours, and living museum actors with events in person, online, and traveling throughout the year with the History Walls.
The exhibition is free and open to the public during gallery hours, Monday through Friday 10 a.m.- 4 p.m. On Saturdays throughout February, the gallery is open 10 a.m.- 3 p.m. Walk & Talk tours led by curator Joyce Sharrock Cole, are scheduled for Feb. 1, 8, 15, and 22 at 6 p.m. Closed Sundays. Tour admission is $25 adult / $10 student.
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