Black history matters


ST. PETERSBURG — Growing up we were taught primarily one version of history, the European version. But there are more than white people here, and black people and other races played significant roles and made important contributions to this country.

When all is said and done, without those very people and many of the events that are consistently omitted from history, America would not be the country it is today.

The education system teaches very little about black history, and when it does, it is in a way that makes it appear as if our history began with slavery. It did not! And it’s time for our children, and all children, to know that Africa has thousands of years of history that includes kingdoms, systems of commerce, art, education, medicine, scientific advances and much more.

Africa is not, as it so often depicted, solely a place of poverty, suffering and ethnic conflicts; it is also a place of great beauty with a rich culture and history. A history we need to know. A history our children need to know. Knowing our history and culture helps us build a sense of pride and create awareness for all people.

We are pleased to share with you that Jai Hinson, founder of the Dundu Dole Urban African Ballet and Artz4Life Academy, will teach African culture and history to the students participating in the Timbuktu Center for African and African American Studies.

Dundu Dole means “life force” in the Wolof language. The Wolof people are a West African ethnic group in northwestern Senegal, Gambia and Mauritania. More than 5.2 million people speak Senegalese.

Hundreds of years ago, the Wolof conquered many tribes in the northwestern Senegal area. By the end of the 1300s, the Wolof had grown into a vast empire of separate, self-governing states.

By the 1500s, the empire had split into four major Wolof kingdoms. The French colonized Senegal during the 1800s, making it a part of French West Africa. In 1968, Senegal gained its independence.

The Wolof, particularly the women, are known for being very beautiful. They dress fashionably and wear sophisticated hairstyles. In fact, they are often the fashion-setters for others around them.

A typical Wolof village consists of several hundred people living in compounds that are grouped around a central village square. Public events such as dancing and wrestling take place in the village square. A platform used for public meetings is usually located in the center of the square, and a mosque is located on the square’s east side.

When outside the village, the Wolof must wear clothing suitable for the occasion and according to one’s role in society. While in the public eye, they must look, move and speak in the appropriate manner, even while shopping in the market.

The first session with Hinson will be Saturday, Sept. 22 from 12-2 p.m. at the James Weldon Johnson Community Library, 1058 18th Ave S. New participants and parents are welcome to attend this session and register for the year-round program.

Sessions are usually held on the second Saturday of each month from 12-2 p.m. with our partner, Susan Dickson and the Johnson Community Library.

Remember: It is never too late to begin to learn about our history.

Gwen Reese

Gwen Reese

Also, Dundu Dole Urban African Ballet and Artz4Life Academy offer African dance and drumming classes every Monday evening from 7-8:30 p.m. at the Enoch Davis Center, 1111 18th Ave. S. The free classes are open to all ages and genders. For more information, please call (727) 216-3519.


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