For Karla Spencer-George, Black History Month is more than a brief classroom discussion or a prime-time screening of “Roots.” Everyone knows the bullet points: Black people were slaves, Abraham Lincoln freed them, enter Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King and for the grand finale, the election of President Obama. That’s not enough, she said.
Spencer-George is the founder of the first ever Midwest Black History Month Expo, happening Saturday at RiverCentre in St. Paul.
“The first significant encounter of black history I had was in college. I want this to be a vehicle to teach everyone of all cultures about black history,” she said.
Spencer-George is the owner of Liberation Clothing and Gifts, a Twin Cities business that promotes black history and culture. She said she wanted to expand that charge when she noticed the lack of large events during the month of February. Her goals with the Midwest Black History Month Expo are ambitious: She hopes to attract at least 10,000 people with a full day of activities and speakers.
“There’s been a lot of hard work and sleepless nights,” she said about pulling together the event. Working with a large number of vendors and artists — about 200 — has been a challenge. “There has been a lot of leaning on the community and people I know, but we have big dreams.”
Here’s what expo-goers can expect.
• The day’s keynote speaker is Julianne Malveaux, an economist who was featured in the CNN documentary “Black in America.” She will speak on how economics have affected the black community over the years. Other speakers include Twin Cities intellectual Mahmoud El Kati, who will lead a discussion on the Haitian revolution. Tracine Asberry, board of education director for Minneapolis Public Schools, will speak on the topic, “How and When Do I Teach My Child About Black History?”
• A children’s room will feature face-painting and an African dance class. Ten authors will read from and sell their children’s books.
• There will be live performances by Sounds of Blackness vocalist Jamecia Bennett, spoken-word artist Da Black Pear and the LoveWorks Academy drill team.
• A mini film festival will include screenings of “Slavery and the Making of America,” “Slavery by Another Name,” “Percy Julian: Forgotten Genius” and “Toussaint Louverture and the Haitian Revolution.” Discussions will follow the screenings.
• Plenty of vendors will be on hand. They range from African American Family Services and the African American AIDS Task Force to Mhiripiri Gallery, the Clique beauty salon and Diva54 Jewelry.