By Steven Adamo
Students of East Los Angeles College have celebrated Black History Month in a variety of different ways throughout its over 40 year history. The very first celebration of Black History Month occurred in 1976 and featured the west coast premiere of “Bayou Legend,” an Opera by William Grant Still at Ingall’s Auditorium.
The event was sponsored by all the Black Studies departments of the nine Los Angeles Community College District colleges. The president of ELAC at the time, Armando Rodriguez, said “with this program, we hope to bring public attention to the contributions of Black American composers in the field of classical music. Too often when people recall a Black composer, the immediate response is to associate him with popular music, thus perpetuating a false image.”
Also in 1976, poet William White was featured and shared some of his poems and stories with ELAC students. ELAC Campus News writer Mary Simpson wrote that “if you just listen to White’s poetry, you only get half the meaning,” explaining that the use of his hands, eye movements and rhythm made up the other half.
White released a novel titled “The Soul and Uncle Sam” about his time in military service and a book of poetry titled “Moods of a Black Man” which focused on dealing with racial problems and other problems of the day.
Black History Theater Arts class provided entertainment for two 45-minute shows for Black History Month in 1984. Instructor Dave Wells planned the show with students and student Curtis Taylor wrote the narratives.
In Taylor’s narrative, ELAC Campus News staff writer Vicki Chong said that Taylor’s emotional narration featured past and present Black History, brushing on stories about slavery, the Harlem Renaissance and closing with a description of events at the time.
Taylor used music to accompany his words for his performance. “We wanted to inform the public about Black history and about all my people’s plights in the past and also about recent accomplishments,” Taylor said in 1984.
The Black History Continuum arranged a mixture of arts at the S2 Recital Hall in 2014, focusing on themes of love and unity. ELAC Campus News staff writer Cynthia Laguna reported that the event featured the song “Samba no Pé” that included live music and dancers. The JazzAntiqua Dance and Music Ensemble blended jazz and blues during their performance.
Wanda-Lee Evans was the ELAC Dance instructor at the time and MC of the event. Evans said “we are all mirrors that reflect each other and all cultures melting together.” Kent Long, a volunteer at the event, said “the purpose and goal is to show how the African influence is very strong.”