Cultural celebration recognizes Black creativity, expression

Thatiana Gibbs
Staff Writer

An Arts and Cultural Celebration was held in honor of Black History Month Saturday at the Upland Public Library at 450 N. Euclid Ave, in Upland. 

Maurquicia Taylor, the library’s outreach coordinator and celebration host, explained the dire need for spaces that involved diverse representation and contribution. An homage to Black creativity and expression, the celebration featured a panel of esteemed artists and writers for the occasion. 

“We didn’t have anything like this for the urban community and it’s time that our voices are heard,” Taylor said. “Black history needs to be celebrated more. I wanted to do something that represented the culture. From the Voodoo chips that make a New Orleans feel–to the colors on the tablecloth.”

Upon entry, the environment was inviting and gave an impression of unity. With casual conversation, Black History Month decor and food that embodies Black culture, the venue was buzzing with appreciation.

The library staff unanimously agreed that previously there existed a gap for events that showcased diversity within the arts and humanities. Celebrations such as the one which took place at the library, gave local communities an opportunity to receive multicultural education and exposure.

Allen Callaci, the library’s assistant director, felt that events such as this one act as a means of bringing awareness and people together. He was more than willing to assist with a gathering that had such significant meaning behind it.

“She (Taylor) inspired the event, we as a department said ‘That’s a great idea. Let’s run with it and we’ll be your support system,” Callaci said. “I think libraries are becoming more of a community center, for people to gather and come together. Yes, we’re about books, but we also want to be about deeper cultural things.”

Singer and Songwriter Kolby Cordell opened the event with a soulful and sincere rendition of the “The Black National Anthem” or “Lift Every Voice and Sing” written by James Weldon Johnson in 1900. The acapella performance gave the room energy and held with it deeper impact. 

The two poets of the evening, David Layne and Rose Bowen, performed original poems with themes of hope, strength, and self-love. As the audience included guests of all ages, the messages relayed within the texts were both good sentiments to instill in young children and reminders for adult listeners.

“We write so much about our pain and our experience in the day to day, but there is such rare poetry where we take time and reflect, and honor ourselves,” Bowen said. “It is so important to say, ‘Well damn, I’m beautiful!’ I think (poetry) is a motivator and an energizer. It’s a way for us to be heard.” 

The featured artist of the night, Demar Douglas, was urged to come on stage and share some insight on his own artistic journey. Enamored with art since he was a child, Douglas shared stories about his hardships with the occupation, and how at times he was even doubted in becoming a professional artist. 

Clearly having made a space and name for himself in the field, Douglas encouraged anyone with a knack for something that seems impossible, to believe in yourself more than anyone else could. His art featured some of the most influential and successful Black people in the world. 

With thoughtful detail and scene depictions, the art that Douglas paints expresses who he is and what he cares about. Some paintings depicted well known animated characters and historical figures such as Baby Yoda, The Little Mermaid, Jesus Christ and Barack Obama. 

“I feel like being an African American man influences my style tremendously,” Douglas said. “As far as how visual arts should play into the Black experience, I think it should represent the times. No. 1, I want my art to be a spokesperson for what’s going on in society. No. 2, I want people to know that it’s okay to not be a one trick pony. I’m comfortable doing a picture of Oscar the Grouch as much as I am doing one of Malcolm X.”

Thatiana Gibbs can be reached at thatiana.gibbs@laverne.edu.

Thatiana Gibbs is a junior journalism major with a concentration in print-online journalism and a staff writer for the Campus Times. Her enthusiasm lies in research, writing, and effectively delivering captivating information to the public eye.

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