Two riveting programs presented by Fort Hays State University's University Activities Board and the Office of Multicultural Affairs will help mark Black History Month in western Kansas. Both programs are free to the public and will be in the Beach/Schmidt Performing Arts Center.
"The Race and Religion Symposium: A Dialogue in Spoken Word" will be presented at 7 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 20.
Three artists of the spoken word from different backgrounds will perform their politically charged poetry to inspire dialogue about important social issues.
"Through the art of spoken word, audience members will gain a better understanding of race and religious issues in the current state of American politics," said Josh McMahan, president of University Activities Board.
The program will feature Bryonn Bain, a Harvard Law School graduate who was arrested by New York City police for a crime he did not commit. The story made headlines and led to Bain's essay, "The Bill of Rights for Black Men." He also appeared in "60 Minutes" during an interview with Mike Wallace. Bain placed second in the National Poetry Slam and founded the Blackout Art Collective, which is committed to empowering communities of color through the arts, activism and education.
The second artist to be featured is Jason Carney, a former skinhead from Texas who has used poetry to heal himself and others. After several incidents of gay bashing and racial intolerance during his youth, Carney was sent to a juvenile detention center where his roommate was gay and HIV positive. Respect and friendship formed, and Carney now uses poetry to help eliminate intolerance.
Kevin Coval is a poet, emcee essayist, activist and educator who has performed worldwide and is featured in "Russell Simmons Def Poetry Jam," currently airing on HBO. Much of Coval's work looks critically at current cultural and political events and his Jewish identity.
Sponsors are the University Activities Board, the Office of Multicultural Affairs, the Office of Student Affairs, Residential Life and the Office of the Provost.
The second program, at 7 p.m. Monday, Feb. 27, features Daryl Davis, who will present his story of setting up surprise meetings with Klan leaders unaware of his skin color and attending KKK rallies. On a quest to explore racism and gather information for his book, "Klan-Destine Relationships," Davis eventually became the recipient of robes and hoods from Klan members who came to him to rescind their bigotry.
"Daryl Davis is black, and yet he has come in closer contact with members of the Ku Klux Klan than most white non-members and, certainly, most blacks," said McMahan. "His stories have the suspense of Hitchcock, keeping audiences riveted to their seats in disbelief. Davis' impassioned lectures leave audiences feeling empowered to confront their own prejudices and overcome thier fears."
Davis is also an accomplished blues and R&B musician and has toured extensively with Muddy Waters Legendary Blues Band and Chuck Berry, among others. He will incorporate the blues into his presentation.
For more information on these events, contact the Multicultural Affairs Office at 628-5558 or the University Activities Board at 628-5801.