Black Anthology revisits history to highlight modern race issues

| Contributing Reporter

Excited students, faculty, parents and members of the St. Louis community filled Edison Theatre on Friday and Saturday to enjoy “Lest We Forget,” a Black Anthology production.

Black Anthology is an annual student production that explores important issues pertinent to the African-American culture through drama, poetry, dance and music.

This year’s show focused on remembering the tumultuous 1960s that propelled social change through protests and activism. University students nationwide protested unequal treatment and demanded an increase in black students, faculty, and the creation of African-American studies departments.

Senior Diamond Skinner, who directed the show, drew inspiration from the black community at Washington University for this year’s theme.

“I just felt that over the years, black students at Wash. U. started to take their education for granted without really paying homage to the people who within our parents’ generation did all these things so that we can have all these amazing educational opportunities,” Skinner said. “Also, once we started working on the script, the passing of Dean McLeod brought on a whole new meaning to the show because his legacy in everything he did for black students and faculty lives on in each and everyone of us.”

Jonathan Fenderson, a postdoctoral fellow in African and African-American studies at the University, led a pre-show discussion on Saturday. He discussed the continuing struggle for racial equality around the world, and stressed the importance of maintaining open communication about racial issues between students and the administration.

“People like to avoid talking about race by saying we are a post-racial society, but that is far from the truth,” Fenderson said. “Diversity is not a destination, but an ongoing project that needs engagement from both sides, the administration and the students.”

Sophomore Elissabeth Martin liked that this year’s theme was rooted in historical events and addressed some of the current struggles students face, including decreased funding for minority initiative projects.

“Last year’s show was more focused on the dynamics of the black community, but this year’s concept is deeper, more universal,” Martin said.

Held during Black History Month, Black Anthology’s main purpose is to educate people about the rich history of African-American culture while confronting controversial issues such as racism, self-identity and human rights.

For senior Sruti Chivukula, attending the show was her way of supporting not only her friends who performed, but also for a greater social cause.

“Black Anthology is one of the few cultural shows on campus that’s not just purely dance and music,” Chivukula said. “It’s about people and learning about the issues that are affecting us today.”