African American History Live performances set at Sankofa

DOVER — If you don’t know where you’ve been, you don’t know where you’re going.

Dr. Don Blakey said he hopes those words resonate with the audience, as he plans to educate those in attendance about how the African American political scene developed in Dover and Kent County during the African American History Live performances this weekend at the Sankofa Cultural Arts Center in downtown Dover.

“If you can’t go back and understand what people scarified for us to get to this point today in Kent County, Dover and throughout the state, then how can you continue to enhance that moving forward,” Dr. Blakey said.

Presented by the Delaware State News, with expanded events after a successful first year in 2017, the second annual Citywide Black History Celebration kicked off on Feb. 1 with a chorale concert at Delaware State University and continues Feb. 9 and Feb. 10 with the African American History Live performances. The Feb. 9 show is from 7 to 8:30 p.m.; doors open at 6 p.m., and Saturday shows are noon to 1:30 p.m. and 4 to 5:30 p.m.; doors open an hour before each show.

All events are free, but tickets to guarantee seating are required.. Tickets are available at the Biggs Museum and the Delaware State News. Ticket holders must be seated by 15 minutes before the performance start time. Doors will be opened to the public at that time. For information, visit www.delmarvaevents.net/.

The Sankofa Steel Drum Ensemble will perform and presentations will spotlight African-American sorority and fraternity life in Kent County, the influence of the black church, Kent’s separate public-school system and the Kent County politics. Those programs will be presented by Dr. Reba Hollingsworth, the Rev. John Moore, Dr. Bobbie Jones and Dr. Blakey, respectively.

Dr. Blakey will speak on his concept of a salt and pepper government during the early days in Dover and Kent County.

“When I moved to Dover in 1954 to study at what’s now Delaware State University mostly everything in Dover was all white,” Dr. Blakey said. “We didn’t have anyone in the government, or the police force. The schools were segregated and you didn’t have any leadership coming from the black community regarding education, except DSU and that was a college.”

He said that it was important for African Americans to break that barrier during that time period.

“We had a large population of African Americans and others in the area without any representation,” Dr. Blakey said. “We eventually started to get people on the school board and in the local and state government.”

“That was the objective,” he added.

Dr. Blakey said the name of the game is having diversity in as many places as possible and acknowledging prominent African Americans that helped open the door for others throughout Kent County and Dover.

“If you don’t have a voice someone can make a decision for you,” Dr. Blakey said. “That decision may not be the best decision for you, so that’s why we wanted to make sure that these people are historically known.”

“Black pioneers that helped make important contributions throughout Dover and Kent County were the voices that we needed to represent us in the black community,” he added. We want to keep that history alive during this event.”

Dr. Blakey’s wife, Delores hopes young people throughout the city attend the event as well.

“I really hope a lot of them come out and really take in what’s going on,” Mrs. Blakey said. “I think it’s important for them to come out and listen because they don’t know the past.

“For my generation, I can see all the progress because I came from segregated schools and everything else. I feel as though young people don’t know what has happened in the past that’s affecting them now and for the future, which is why I think this event is very important, especially for them.”

Dr. Blakey not only wants the Citywide Black History Celebration to get bigger and better each year, but hopes it expands throughout the state as well.

“We’re the mirror image of the Harlem Renaissance,” Dr. Blakey said. “What you had then, you have with what we’re doing except there’s not enough of it. We want more of it, so it will spread to schools, churches and other agencies.

“It takes a village to raise a child,” he added. This is only the beginning, as we want this celebration to be big as possible moving forward.”

Arshon Howard is a freelancer writer from Dover.

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