Two events today are tied to black heritage

The yearly acknowledgement of the contributions black people have made in this country and the world is underway, and, thanks to our president, it is more important than ever to embrace Black History Month.

I suspect PresidentDonald Trump probably did not take a black history course when he attended Fordham University and later the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, but it should be pointed out that the cradle of civilization can be traced to the African continent.

In an Associated Press story last week, a fossil found in Israel indicates modern humans may have left Africa as many as 100,000 years earlier than previously thought.

Scientists say an ancient upper jawbone and associated stone tools also could mean that Homo sapiens – modern humans – arose in Africa far earlier than fossils now show. And it may cause rethinking about how humans evolved and interacted with now-extinct cousin species, such as Neanderthals, the AP reported.

Depending on whom you choose to believe, the president either did or did not refer to some African countries as “sh---hole countries” in a discussion late last month with congressional leaders concerning our nation’s perplexing and unresolved immigration policy.

I’m sure immigrants from Nigeria, Uganda, Algeria, Egypt, Ethiopia and other nations on the African continent have contributed to our nation’s benefit since America separated itself from England in 1776. I also suspect they would not refer to their homelands in such a derogatory way.

But my columns have always tried to point out the positive things going on in the black and minority communities, and of course there will be several BHM events to remind us of the rich heritage people of African descent have contributed to the United States.

For example, today at the Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County’s main branch at Wick and Rayen avenues in Youngstown, storyteller Jocelyn Dabney, accompanied by her husband, Bob, will give a presentation on black heritage at 10 a.m.

Jocelyn, who was born in Alliance but has spent most of her life in Youngstown, is author of the book “Nana Bea and Me.” She is a gifted storyteller, and I’ve seen her perform numerous times. It will be well worth your time to see the Dabneys in action.

Pearlette Wigley, community development director for the Youngstown office of U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Howland, D-13th, will bring to life the story of swimmer Simone Manuel an hour later at the main library.

Manuel, of Texas, was the first black American woman to win an individual Olympic Gold Medal in swimming at the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janiero.

At noon today, the library will feature a program called “A Literary Exploration of Slavery in America,” using the works of youth literature by Virginia Hamilton and other award-winning black authors and illustrators.

The themes of oppression, the false portrayal of happiness and the steadfast faith and hope displayed by African-Americans as they persevered will be presented.

Hands-on exhibits include music and crafts as depicted in the featured literature.

For other Black History Month programs at the library and its branches, go to its website

Youngstown State University also has its annual African Marketplace to start its BHM programming from noon to 4 p.m. today in the Chestnut Room of Kilcawley Center. Vendors will show off various Afrocentric wares and other goods, and of course there will be a variety of food available for purchase.

At 2 p.m. Sunday, The Butler Institute of American Art on Wick Avenue, in collaboration with the Youngstown Chapter of the Links Inc., presents “The African American Collection,” a lecture on the permanent collection of African-American art, by Louis Zona, the art museum’s executive director and chief curator.

The Links Inc. is an international, nonprofit corporation, established in 1946, that consists of nearly 14,000 professional women of color in 285 chapters in 41 states, the District of Columbia and the Commonwealth of the Bahamas.

According to its website, it is one of the nation’s oldest and largest volunteer service organizations of women who are committed to enriching, sustaining and ensuring the culture and economic survival of African-Americans and other persons of African ancestry.

On Monday, Malcolm Mobutu Smith, artist and teacher, and associate professor of ceramic art at Indiana University in Bloomington, Ind., is featured in the Solomon Gallery at YSU’s Bliss Hall from 5 to 8 p.m. The YSU Africana Studies Program is sponsoring his appearance.

We should always remember that black history – like Italian history, Jewish history, Irish history, Latino history and Native American history – is an inseparable part of American history.

It should be celebrated, respected and taught as a reminder of the achievements and sacrifices by men and women of color to make our country great.

Ernie Brown Jr., a regional editor at The Vindicator, writes a monthly minority-affairs column. Contact him at