UHV to host student showcase of Black history
As people across the nation observe Black History Month during February, a class of University of Houston-Victoria students are planning to offer a showcase of art, poetry, singing, dancing and other artistic pieces and performances to celebrate Black American culture.
Students in the UHV College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences history course, “African American History,” the university’s first survey course of African American history, will present their showcase from 7 to 9 p.m. Feb. 23 in the UHV University North Multi-Purpose Room. The showcase is part of a project that the students are doing for the course.
“The idea behind the showcase was to encourage students to do historical research and present their findings in an expressive, creative way,” said Laura Mammina, UHV assistant professor of history. “Each of these students drew inspiration from something they learned in class or something that interested them that they discovered in their own research.”
One of the requirements for the project was that students use a primary source, such as a song, photograph or letter from a historical figure, and then research more about the subject to put together their presentation for the showcase, Mammina said. The showcase is sponsored by the A.D. Sheffield Symposium on African American History, and Mammina serves as chair of the symposium. Some of the projects and presentations will feature a student singing “Summertime” from the opera “Porgy and Bess,” a step dance choreographed with elements of West African dance steps, and a painting that pays tribute to the Tuskegee Airmen from World War II that were known as “Red Tails” because of the red paint that they used to paint the tails of their planes.
For Annette Clark, a junior communications design major from Houston, the course and the showcase are an opportunity to learn more about African American history that isn’t covered in the typical U.S. history course. She had taken U.S. History the previous semester, and she was excited to see the university offer a course that offered a more in-depth look at African American history. For her project, Clark is creating a painting inspired by the Billie Holiday song “Strange Fruit,” which addresses the issue of lynchings in the southern U.S.
“A while ago, I watched the movie ‘The United States vs. Billie Holiday,’ and it talked about how the officials at that time didn’t want her to sing the song, even though it was very popular,” Clark said. “There were times when people requested the song, but officials would literally try to pull her off the stage to keep her from singing it. There’s so much deep emotion in the song, and you can feel the pain in the lyrics.”
Kai Samuels, a sophomore psychology major from Monahans, Texas, plans to perform the song “I Know Where I’ve Been” from the musical “Hairspray” for her project. Samuels grew up watching the movie adaptation of the musical, which features Queen Latifah singing the song in a scene when African Americans are marching for racial equality during the 1960s.
“I’m excited and nervous to be part of the showcase,” Samuels said. “I’m especially excited to have the chance to do something creative and meaningful during Black History Month. It’s a great opportunity to show that there is so much creativity and passion in the Black community, and we have the opportunity to express ourselves and what we are passionate about.”
That creative expression and the desire to learn more about African American history has been an encouraging thing to see, Mammina said. The showcase will give students the opportunity to share some of what they have learned and what they are passionate about with the community.
“I have wanted to teach this course for a long time, and it is wonderful to see how excited students are to have a space to learn about Black history,” Mammina said. “We want the community to get a glimpse of the richness and depth of history that is part of Black culture. I’ve been so impressed by how talented these students are, and I can’t wait to see their projects come to life.”
The University of Houston-Victoria, located in the heart of the Coastal Bend region since 1973 in Victoria, Texas, offers courses leading to more than 50 academic programs in the schools of Arts & Sciences; Business Administration; and Education, Health Professions & Human Development. UHV provides face-to-face classes at its Victoria campus, as well as an instructional site in Katy, Texas, and online classes that students can take from anywhere. UHV supports the American Association of State Colleges and Universities Opportunities for All initiative to increase awareness about state colleges and universities and the important role they have in providing a high-quality and accessible education to an increasingly diverse student population, as well as contributing to regional and state economic development.