Union County announces Black History Month events

UNION COUNTY, NJ — In recognition of Black History Month 2024, the Union County Board of County Commissioners invites the public to a series of engaging events in February, highlighting key historical and cultural themes in African-American history. This year’s theme, “African Americans and the Arts,” focuses on black contributions to music, visual media and more.

“The theme for this year’s Black History Month is a significant one,” said Union County Commissioner Kimberly Palmieri-Mouded. “The arts are critical to understanding the black experience through history; from struggle and pain, to hope and joy. As always, Union County is dedicated to providing enjoyable learning experiences that are unique, engaging and family-friendly.”

The monthlong series begins on Thursday, Feb. 1, at 1 p.m., with a raising of the Pan-African flag, also known as the Black Liberation flag, at the Union County Courthouse, located at 2 Broad St., Elizabeth. The event will not require registration.

“It’s not that long ago that proudly displaying symbols of black culture in public was unthinkable,” said Commissioner Rebecca Williams. “By continuing our flag-raising tradition, we hope to inspire our residents to be proud of their heritage, a central part of their identity.”

The series continues on Wednesday, Feb. 14, at 12:30 p.m., with a virtual Lunch and Learn presentation. The featured speaker will be professor Shawn Smith, a photographer and filmmaker who currently also serves as an adjunct professor at Essex County College. Smith teaches studio art, along with history of African-American cinema, art appreciation, photography, interactive multimedia design, game design and animation design. Registration for the Zoom is required at www.ucnj.org/bhm.

“Professor Shawn Smith offers a wealth of knowledge when it comes to black history,” said Commissioner Michèle S. Delisfort. “His academic experience has covered virtually every corner of that world and we are excited to learn a lot from him. Shawn is a natural fit for our Lunch and Learn series, which is a fun and relaxed way to learn during the work day.”

The county’s Black History Month 2024 event lineup will conclude on Thursday, Feb. 22, at 7 p.m., with a special Jazz Night concert. The event, at the Union County Performing Arts Center Hamilton Stage, located at 360 Hamilton St., Rahway, will star the Bob DeVos Quartet, featuring Lance Bryant. The event will also include the presentation of the 2024 Chester Holmes Humanitarian Award by the Union County Board of County Commissioners. Registration is required to receive a free ticket at www.ucnj.org/bhm.

“We have been eagerly awaiting for the Hamilton Stage to reopen ever since Hurricane Ida,” said Commissioner James E. Baker Jr., “and now that that day has come, we’re ready to host more incredible community events in this modern, multi-purpose space. It’s a fitting way to continue the celebration of UCPAC’s 95th anniversary, which highlights the rich artistic tradition in both the city of Rahway and Union County.”

Throughout the month, residents can also expect weekly social media content featuring the “Divine Nine” historically black fraternities and sororities. To receive more information on the entire Black History Month event lineup, residents can visit www.ucnj.org/bhm or contact Judith Guest, Union County Office of Community Engagement and Diversity, at [email protected] or 908-527-4388.