Campus celebrates Black History Month with performances, film, concerts, more

Saul Williams

Black History Month at UCSC will include a look at black slavery, history, and modern day professionals, courtesy of the African American Theater Arts Troupe.

The troupe's performances are just part of the celebration of Black History Month on campus, which included the Jan. 30 Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Convocation and will feature performances, a documentary, concerts and lectures, and more.

The Trial of One Short-Sighted Black Woman vs. Mammy Louise and Safreeta Mae, which features an imaginary courtroom that examines persistent stereotypes, will be performed in February and March, and is a presentation of the UCSC Theater Arts Department.

The Broadway gospel play, written by Karani M. Leslie and directed by Don Williams, brings up the "Aunt Jemima figure" and the black prostitute as stereotypes. A young, upwardly mobile black woman brings a lawsuit to the imaginary court, complaining that jokes at her expense are based on these demeaning character types. Since there is really no courtroom, the prosecutor and defender can summon any witnesses they want, real or imaginary, and get the whole truth from them.

The show will be performed at the UCSC Stevenson College Event Center at 7 p.m. on February 22-23 and at 3 p.m. February 24. Tickets are $12 for general admission, $9 UCSC students and seniors.

The troupe will also perform off campus at 7 p.m. February 29 and March 1 at Santa Cruz High School. Tickets are $12 for general admission and $9 for UCSC students and seniors. In addition, there will be a performance at 7 p.m. on March 15 at the Oldemeyer Center in Seaside.

The African American Theater Arts Troupe, directed by Don Williams, is designed to enhance the climate of the cultural diversity on the campus and in the community. The group also encourages the development of abilities through annual scholarship awards. It has raised and awarded more than $60,000 in scholarships to UCSC students who work with the African American Theater Arts Troupe.

Other Black History Month events include:

  • The African/Black Student Alliance will present its Winter Formal 8 p.m. to midnight February 1 at Stevenson Event Center. $10. Information:

  • Hugh Masekela's Chissa All Stars, 8 p.m. February 5 at the Rio Theatre in Santa Cruz. $20-$45. Trumpeter Hugh Masekela ingeniously fuses post-bop with R&B, pop, and African rhythms to remain one of Africa's most beloved performers. He is the founder of Chissa Records, South Africa's first and only black-owned record label. Information: (831) 459-2159;;

  • Saul Williams's "Spoken Word" at 8 p.m. February 6 at Porter College Dining Hall. Free. To thousands of youth across America, Saul Williams has defined and redefined poetry as an accessible, living art form. He has performed, toured, and lectured worldwide, and his writings have been added to the curricula of dozens of high schools and colleges across the country. Information: (831) 459-1861.

  • "A Rose Among Thorns": Ella Joyce at 8 p.m. February 9 at Stevenson College Event Center. Free. Ella Joyce explores Rosa Parks as real human being, not just an iconic figure. Joyce presents a collection of historical information seeking to straighten out the occasional misinformation that sometimes surrounds Parks's "famous incident." Information: (831) 459-1861.

  • Ailey II, 8 p.m., Monday, February 11, at the 
Henry J. Mello Center,
 250 E. Beach Street, Watsonville. $20-$40. Begun in 1974 by dance legend Alvin Ailey, Ailey II has become one of the most popular dance companies in the United States. Information:

  • College Nine and College Ten will present a Hip Hop Roundtable at 7 p.m., Wednesday, February 13, in the College Nine/Ten Multipurpose Room. Renowned panelists will debate the impact of hip hop music and lyrics on communities of color. The moderator is Russel Shoatz, co-founder of Blu Magazine. For information, e-mail

  • Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars, 8 p.m. February 19 at the Rio Theatre in Santa Cruz. $20-$30. Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars, although diverse in age and character, share the common bond of loss and displacement caused by their homeland's civil war. A shared belief in the transformative power of music united the group in refugee camps in West Africa. The award-winning 2006 documentary film, Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars, by Banker White and Zach Niles, will be shown as a preview to this event at 7:15 p.m. February 13 at UCSC Media Theater in the Performing Arts Complex. The screening is free. Information:

  • Oakes College and the Department of History will present a lecture with Peniel E. Joseph, associate professor of African and Afro-American Studies at Brandeis University, entitled, "Waiting 'til the Midnight Hour: The Black Power Era and American Democracy," 4-6 p.m. February 19 in Humanities 1, Room 520. Joseph is a frequent national commentator on civil rights, race, and democracy

    issues, and his work has appeared in the New York Times, the Chronicle Review, and the Washington Post.