K. Leroy Irvis Black History Month Program

Black to the Future

The University's signature Black History Month event, the K. Leroy Irvis Black History Month Program sponsored by the Office of the Chancellor, is named for K. Leroy Irvis, a 1954 graduate of the University of Pittsburgh School of Law and one of the most important and influential men in Pennsylvania history. This year’s K. Leroy Irvis Black History Month program - Black To The Future: A Festival of Art, Social Justice, and Dreaming (February 26 – 29) – features a series of cultural activities that highlight black activism through the arts. 

Black to the Future: A Festival of Art, Social Justice, and Dreaming is a reframing of what it means to celebrate Black History Month. The festival has an eye toward the relationship between remembering and reimagining; it’s a way to honor the past while simultaneously imagining the future we want to live in. With concepts from AfroFuturists in mind, the festival brings together “the imagination, technology, the future, and liberation” via experimentation and a redefinition of culture and blackness itself. It also focuses on the critical impact of art, poetry, and music in helping to change culture so that what we dream might actually become reality.

Spanning four days, the festival is a celebration of the creative arts across genres. Performance & visual artists, musicians, poets, and dancers will, in practice, think inside of this and other historical moments and our potential relationships to a liberated, speculative future.

All events are free and open to the public.

Register online: K. Leroy Irvis BHM registration

Questions? Contact diversity@pitt.edu

Black to the Future: A Festival of Art, Social Justice, and Dreaming programs

Presented by the African American Alumni Council, the Africana Studies Department, the Center for African American Poetry and Poetics, Kelly Strayhorn Theater, Equipoise, the Jazz Studies Program, the Office for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, Office of the Senior Vice Chancellor for Engagement, and 1Hood Media. The program is part of the Pitt Year of Creativity.

 

WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 26

BLACK TO THE FUTURE  ART EXHIBITION

Open from 9AM to 9PM Wednesday, Feb. 26 to Friday, Feb. 28 | Connolly Ballroom, Alumni Hall

This exhibition will include works by visual artists-activists from the University and the community. Artists are welcomed to submit their art for display in the exhibition: Artist submission form

BLACK TO THE FUTURE  LECTURE WITH ALISHA WORMSLEY

12 p.m. | Connolly Ballroom, Alumni Hall

The open lecture will feature Alisha Wormsley, an interdisciplinary artist and cultural producer, as she discusses ancient futurism, black witches (womxn), and time travel.

EQUIPOISE WELCOME RECEPTION

5:30pm | Connolly Ballroom, Alumni Hall

The Equipoise Pitt Community welcomes all to partake in food, fine art, and fellowship as we prepare to be enthralled by the masterful avery r. young and the de deacon board.

AVERY R. YOUNG SPEAKS ON HIS NEW VISUAL POETRY BOOK NECKBONE

6:00pm | Connolly Ballroom, Alumni Hall

A mastermind in a new language of poetry, that engages and challenges readers to see beyond the traditional spaces poems are shaped and exist, Young’s neckbone extends tentacles in literature, art, and activism--redefining the collective and the sermon of the “blk” experience.  

AVERY R. YOUNG AND DE DEACON BOARD PRESENT TUBMAN

7:00pm | Connolly Ballroom, Alumni Hall

Young marinates social commentary in gospel, blues and funk to create a salty concoction he calls sousefunk. His band, de deacon board, channels Gil Scott Heron, Parliament and Curtis Mayfield, building on sounds of the past to chart a course for poetry and music through our rocky present. 

 

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 27

AFRICAN AMERICAN ALUMNI COUNCIL PRESENTS BLACK TO THE FUTURE CEREMONIAL TIME CAPSULE BURIAL

3pm | Connolly Ballroom, Alumni Hall

This event will mark a ceremonial movement of the past 50 years of black student activism as part of the ongoing transformation at the University of Pittsburgh.

READING JUSTIN PHILLIP REED WITH POETRY AND PERFORMANCE

6:30 p.m. | Henry Heymann Theatre, Stephen Foster Memorial

2018 National Book Award-winning poet Justin Phillip Reed will be joined by poets and performers, Tongo Eisen-Martin, Simone White, and Jaamil Olawale Kosoko, who will present new work in reaction, response, disjuncture, and/disruption to Reed’s new collection, The Malevolent Volume (forthcoming 2020).

 

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 28

BLACK TO THE FUTURE ART RECEPTION, SHOWCASE AND PANEL DISCUSSION

4:30 p.m. | Connolly Ballroom, Alumni Hall

The reception provides attendees the opportunity to meet the community of artists whose works are on display in the exhibition, and create & display their own six-word stories on art as activism, a popular short form of expression.

6 p.m. | 7th Floor Auditorium, Alumni Hall

The showcase features a variety of artistic performances including gospel, opera, hip-hop, spoken word, dance, and jazz. Performers will include Jasiri X, Pittsburgh rapper and activist; the Kuumba ensemble led by Nicole Mitchell Gantt, Pitt Jazz Studies Program director; Kay Henderson, opera performer; Jari Bradley, poet; and Some of God’s Children gospel choir

The showcase will be followed by a panel discussion, moderated by Jasiri X, on the use of black art as activism. Panelists include Oronde Sharif, Pitt Africana Studies lecturer and artistic director of the Shona Sharif African Dance and Drum Ensemble ; Cue Perry, a visual artist whose work represents the Center for Urban Education’s yearlong theme of “Witnessing” ; and Jasmine Green, a visual artist and political activist.

 

SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 29

COMMUNITY DANCE WORKSHOP BY KANKOURAN WEST AFRICAN DANCE COMPANY

1 p.m. | The Alloy Studios, 5530 Penn Avenue

KANKOURAN WEST AFRICAN DANCE COMPANY PERFORMANCE OF CIRCLE OF PRAISE

6 p.m. | Kelly Strayhorn Theater, 5941 Penn Avenue

This acclaimed performance by the KanKouran West African Dance Company takes the audience on a spiritual journey using praise and celebration dances from the African diaspora as their guide. The dances in this production showcase the complexity of healing and spiritual connection through “Testify and the Djinafoli” (dances drawing on West African dance traditions), “I’m Going Back Home” (inspired by African-American spiritual practices), Shango (drawing on Afro-Caribbean spiritual traditions), and Mandiani and Sabar (both coming full circle back to West African dance forms).

POETRY PARTY HOSTED AND DEEJAYED BY SIMONE WHITE

8:00 p.m. | Kelly Strayhorn Theater, 5941 Penn Avenue