February is Black History Month – a time to learn about and recognize the lives and accomplishments of African Americans. This month, Sumner Hall–in keeping with its stature as a premier site for African American history in Kent County–is hosting a number of events.
Founded over 100 years ago as a meeting place for black veterans of the Civil War, Sumner Hall is one of only two Grand Army of the Republic posts for black veterans still standing, and the only one presenting regular programs for the public. Refurbished by community volunteers as a museum, meeting place and performance venue, Sumner Hall has built on its heritage to become a true landmark on the local cultural map.
The month begins with an exhibition by Kyle Hackett, a Still Pond native who earned an MFA in painting at the Hoffberger School of Painting of the Maryland Institute College of Fine Art. Hackett says on his website, “my work deconstructs historical ideas of secure identity and fixed-painting techniques through subtexts of the staged, self-aware portrait.” His exhibition, “Spirits Rejoice,” opens Friday, Feb. 7, with an opening reception from 5 to 7 p.m., where visitors can meet the artist as well as view his work.
Hackett returns to Sumner Hall the following evening, Saturday, Feb. 8, at 7 p.m. for a talk on “Process, Practice and Provisionality.” There will be a dessert reception following the program. All are welcome, and there is no charge for admission. The exhibit will continue on display for all of February.
Sumner Hall will also offer a three-week film series on Saturday afternoons during February. All three sessions will be hosted by Davon Teat. On Saturday, Feb. 15, the program is a double-feature with two movies: The Lion Mountains: A Journey Through Sierra Leone’s History and Nubian Spirit: The African Legacy of the Nile Valley.
The next week on Saturday, Feb. 22, the movie is 500 Years Later: The Struggle for African Self-Determination.
On the third and final Saturday, Feb. 29, the feature is Motherland: A Fusion of The History, Culture, and Politics of Africa. All the Saturday film programs begin at 3 p.m., and include a discussion, led by Teat, following the showing.
Another film will be presented on Thursday, Feb. 27, at 6 p.m., co-sponsored by Janes United Methodist Church. Education as Emancipation: The Rosenwald Schools tells the story of some 5,000 schools built in the early 20th Century, primarily for African-American students throughout the south. At least two of the schools were active in Kent County. A discussion and a light supper will follow the screening.
An African American Read-in will be presented on Tuesday, Feb. 18 from 5 to 7 p.m. The program is divided into two parts; from 5 to 5:45, the focus will be on stories appropriate for all ages. After a break for a light supper, the program resumes at 6:15 with selections from young adult and adult literature.
Among other events of interest, Sumner Hall will host a 100th Birthday Party program and luncheon for the League of Women Voters and the U.S. Women’s Suffrage movement on Feb. 15, from 11 a.m to 1:30 p.m.
On Feb. 22, Sumner Hall is one of several sites on the Chestertown Art Crawl, sponsored by Main Street Chestertown. Art lovers can experience the rich local arts community from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Sumner Hall is located at 206 S. Queen Street. In addition to scheduled events, it is open as a museum to the general public yearlong on Saturdays from 11:00 a.m. to 2 p.m. and on Wednesday mornings from 9 to noon. It is open at other times by appointment. Email email@example.com or call 443-282-0023 to make an appointment. – For more information and the schedule of other upcoming events, website the Sumner Hall website at garpost25.org
By Peter Heck
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