MSU President's Column for Traill County Tribune

January 27, 2018 

Mayville State has activities planned in observance of Black History Month

Black History Month, or National African American History Month, is an annual celebration of achievements by black Americans and a time for recognizing the central role of African Americans in U.S. History. Since 1976, every U.S. president has officially designated the month of February as Black History Month.

Mayville State University will mark Black History Month with activities planned on three days during the month of February. On Friday, Feb. 2, guest artist Dr. Ron McCurdy will conduct a master class for students and perform with others in a multimedia concert, the Langston Hughes Project Ask Your Mama: 12 Moods for Jazz, in the evening. There will be a showing of the movie 42 on Thursday, Feb. 15, and Rasheed Ali Cromwell, Esq. will present campus-wide programming regarding African-American and Latino male development on Friday, Feb. 23.

The public is invited to attend the Ask Your Mama: 12 Moods for Jazz concert on Feb. 2, beginning at 7 p.m. in the MSU Classroom Building Auditorium. The multimedia concert performance of Langston Hughes’s kaleidoscopic jazz poem suite which features Malcolm-Jamal Warner and the Ron McCurdy Quartet. Ask Your Mama: 12 Moods for Jazz is Hughes’s homage in verse and music to the struggle for artistic and social freedom at home and abroad at the beginning of the 1960s. It is a 12-part epic poem which Hughes scored with musical cues drawn from blues and Dixieland, gospel songs, boogie woogie, bebop and progressive jazz, Latin “cha cha” and Afro-Cuban mambo music, German lieder, Jewish liturgy, West Indian calypso, and African drumming – a creative masterwork left unperformed at his death.

By way of videography, this concert performance links the words and music of Hughes’s poetry to topical images of Ask Your Mama’s people, places, and events, and to the works of the visual artists Langston Hughes admired or collaborated with most closely over the course of his career – the African-inspired mural designs and cubist geometries of Aaron Douglas, the blues and jazz-inspired collages of Romare Bearden, the macabre grotesques of Meta Warrick Fuller and the rhythmic sculptural figurines and heads and bas reliefs of Richmond Barthe, the color blocked cityscapes and black history series of Palmer Hayden and Jacob Lawrence. Together, the words, sounds, and images recreate a magical moment in our cultural history, which bridges the Harlem Renaissance, the post-World War II Beat writers’ coffeehouse jazz poetry world, and the looming Black Arts performance explosion of the 1960s.

The experiences of Jackie Robinson are chronicled in the 2013 movie 42. In 1946, Branch Rickey (played by Harrison Ford), legendary manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, defies major league baseball's notorious color barrier by signing Jackie Robinson (played by Chadwick Boseman) to the team. The heroic act puts both Rickey and Robinson in the firing line of the public, the press, and other players. Facing open racism from all sides, Robinson demonstrates true courage and admirable restraint by not reacting in kind and lets his undeniable talent silence the critics for him. The movie will be shown Thursday, Feb. 15 at 7 p.m. in the MSU Berg Hall classroom. Dinner will be provided.

Rasheed Ali Cromwell, Esq. will present interactive and engaging programming regarding African-American and Latino male development to campus-wide audiences Friday, Feb. 23 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the MSU Campus Center Luckasen Room. Author of the forthcoming book series The Miseducation of the Black Greek™, Rasheed Ali Cromwell is one of the leading authorities on fraternity and sorority life on college campuses.

Through the Harbor Institute, he has presented dynamic keynote speeches and interactive and engaging training sessions, and done consulting for thousands of students and administrators at more than 225 colleges and universities on culturally based fraternities and sororities in 36 states across the country. Mr. Cromwell teaches a Fraternal Values and Leadership Series at Howard University in Washington, D.C. and served as a co-professor at The Ohio State University (Columbus, Ohio), where he taught a Black Greek leadership class the past three years.

We are pleased to have the opportunity to observe Black History Month with these meaningful activities, and we are appreciative of the efforts of Dr. Dina Zavala-Petherbridge, MSU’s Director of Cultural Diversity and Inclusion, who has made the arrangements. I invite you to join us in observing Black History Month.