Celebrating a Century of Black Life, History and Culture

Consul General Rowan gives remarks at the African American History Month Reception
Consul General Rowan gives remarks at the African American History Month Reception

Bringing a close to a month long celebration of Black History, Consul General Christopher Rowan and Mrs. Eleanor Rowan hosted a reception at their residence for more than seventy guests.  Robert Pruitt, an American artist on an arts residency program at Gallery MOMO was the guest of honor and spoke about how he uses art to portray black political and social struggles. In addition to the residency at MOMO, Robert will also work with art students in a series of workshops in Gauteng and the North West Province.

During February as President Obama noted, “We pause to reflect on our progress and our history — not only to remember, but also to acknowledge our unfinished work…We reject the false notion that our challenges lie only in the past, and we recommit to advancing what has been left undone…We know that with enough effort, empathy, and perseverance, people who love their country can change it.”  Building upon that idea, Consul General Rowan challenged all guests to consider their own efforts and contributions toward the future.

Emmanuel Epongo with students from Central Johannesburg College
Emmanuel Epongo with students from Central Johannesburg College

Throughout the month, the Office of Public Affairs in Johannesburg hosted a series of speaker programs celebrating the contributions of African-Americans in building a democratic U.S. society. U.S. Embassy community members Tristan Allen, Emmanuel Epongo, Kurt McPherson, and Trena Bolden Fields presented on a variety of topics to include prominent African-Americans from the period of slavery to contemporary American culture; similarities in protest strategies of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Archbishop Desmond Tutu; parallels between the Jim Crow and Apartheid laws and their socio-economic impact; similarities between the Soweto June 16, 1976 uprising and the 1963 youth of Birmingham and the turning point of the Civil Rights Movement. These speakers engaged with student groups from Moletsane High School, Central Johannesburg College, and Phomolong Secondary School, as well as a group of young people at the Hector Pieterson Museum.