VICTORY IN UNITY BRINGS ENERGY, ENCOURAGEMENT
Speakers, performers highlight festivities starting Black History Month
It was hard to tell what was in greater abundance at the Victory in Unity event, held at the Bell Memorial Union at Chico State University on Sunday.
Was it the message of encouragement? The energy of realizing all humankind has a common interest in advancement? Or was it the realization that Black culture — both modern and ancient — has had a strong hand in understanding and influencing science, astronomy, architecture and agriculture?
The event, kicking off Black History Month, was originally scheduled for Jan. 16 to approximate Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday, but postponed due to weather. Sunday put no such restrictions on the festivities; the crowd of about 500 people took full enjoyment from the entertainment and speakers who took the stage.
One such performer was Paapa Wastik, an international reggae artist and resident of Ghana who's in the United States partly to celebrate Black History Month. His rhythmic piece “Beyond the Bus” honors the legacy of Rosa Parks, whose refusal to give up her bus seat to a white man in Montgomery, Ala., in 1955 was a key moment in the Civil Rights Movement.
Christen Brown of Oakland, performing under the stage name of G'Riot, presented a rap encouraging families to help eliminate gun violence, as well as a piece about self-determination. His organization, Creation of Society, seeks to encourage art, entrepreneurship and agriculture. The group's website, www.creationofsociety.com, gives greater detail into the mission.
Anecia Johnson, whose Chico-based organization Amma Culture promotes the African diaspora and heritage, showed off her colorful display with the label “The Africa They Never Show You.” Amma is an ancient name
based on the Dogon people of Mali and their tradition of the female aspect of God and creation.
For example, the Dogon people were experts in astronomy and the cosmos. They shared with European visitors their knowledge of cosmic bodies, which “the Europeans didn't find out until the 1700s,” Johnson explained.
She also pointed to a large display showing photos of dozens of people of Black ancestry — starting with the Olmecs, the earliest-known Mesoamerican society, and ranging to modern Blacks who have made tremendous contributions in art, science, medicine, philosophy, architecture and agriculture.
Anthropologists have determined the Central American Olmecs, she noted, had “negroid” features. “They were Black,” Johnson said.
T.J. Collins, a 2022 graduate of Las Plumas High School in Oroville, recited King's “I Have a Dream” speech from 1963 with such energy and enthusiasm that the crowd rewarded him with a standing ovation as he finished.
Collins, who now attends Sierra College in Rocklin, said he aspires to be a sports announcer — not difficult to imagine, given his cadence and modulation as he speaks.
Other performances came from Los Tambores de Chapman (Chapman Elementary School in Chico); the Young, Gifted and Talented Girls, a dance troupe from Chico and Bidwell junior high schools; Bella's Locas; and the Divine 9 Step Show. Performances
highlighting the earlier rally came from the FENIX Drum and Dancing Group; a rap performance by Little Lano; and Mz. Wonderful Davidson's
flow with Matt Ball'in Instrumental.
Wrapping up the day was the keynote speaker, Hardy Brown of San Bernardino. Brown, the CEO of the Black Voice Foundation, brought with him dozens of historical freedom artifacts, with interpretations, for the attendees to enjoy. Brown also conducts tours of the Underground Railroad, a secret system prior to the Civil War that helped thousands of slaves from the Southern U.S. reach freedom in Canada.
He said his organization “teaches historical empathy” — that is, figuratively stepping into another person's shoes and understanding that person's life and experiences.
“There are good people who choose to be on the right side of history, and people who choose to be on the wrong side of history,” he said.