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Hart Hall hosts 240 years of black history

Local artists contribute paintings and photographs to help depict key events

Posted: February 18, 2009 12:58 a.m.
Updated: February 18, 2009 12:00 p.m.

Michael R. Powell, left, and his daughters Kenna and Tiana look over artwork by local artist Romeo Downer at the African American display at Hart Hall last weekend.

Colorful paintings and heart-wrenching photographs depict the agony and triumph of the "African American experience" as part of "The Genesis Project" on display at William S. Hart Park's Hart Hall in recognition of Black History Month.

The art reminded visitors of the triumphs and struggles experienced by black people in the United States.

"This is the African American experience in America," said Albert L. Ewing, park recreation services leader.

"From my point of view the history begins with Africa itself. It is an evolving exhibit."

The Genesis Project explores historical events from the slave trade to its abolition in the early 1770s to today, Ewing said.

"The key is to get people to understand the evolution of the African American struggles," he said.

"Throughout my life I've heard snippets of African-American history, but there's so much information in between the (major events)."

Photographic display panels depicted historical events and instrumental people who contributed to improving black American lifestyles, starting with abolishing slavery.

"Some of the most powerful voices were people you wouldn't think about," Ewing said. "The Quakers helped in the underground railroad, and preachers, publications and societies were against slavery."

Several photographs revealed segregation practices targeted toward the black people after the Civil War and the violent acts committed by hate groups including the Ku Klux Klan.

"Some of the things in this exhibit are painful," Ewing said.

Other panels described the black people's impact on settling the western states. After the Civil War, many became pioneers and took on roles as outlaws, lawmen, scouts, traders, buffalo soldiers, cowboys and bull riders, Ewing said.

"One out every five cowboys was a black man," he said. "It was such a surprise to me to discover there were black Indians. Black women played a significant role in settling the West. They established schools for African Americans."

Local artists contributed their black-themed art done with oils, acrylics and scratch board to the exhibit's artwork section, Ewing said.

"Some people have jewelry and crafts. Sometimes I get wearable art," Ewing said.

Ewing hopes the exhibit will arouse public interest in black history and plans to send the collection to schools and churches, he said.

"It's important that we get fact-based education about the African-American experience," he said. "I lay it out as it was and let people get from it what they can."

The County of Los Angeles Department of Parks and Recreation presented the exhibit Friday and Saturday.

For more information call William S. Hart Park at (661) 259-1750.


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