Black History Month events in Maine at the end of February

SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine — The city of South Portland is hosting two Black History Month events this weekend that are open to anyone. Since the city’s Human Rights Commission was created a few years ago, it has been a priority for city officials to host appealing events to celebrate Black History Month.

“The Space Race” Community Screening

Friday, Feb. 23 at 1:30 p.m. at the Opportunity Alliance, (50 Lydia Lane in South Portland)

The event is a screening of the brand new National Geographic documentary “The Space Race,” which explores the efforts of Black astronauts and space pioneers to overcome injustice. Social innovator, entrepreneur, and musical artist Genius Black will co-host the event.

“They are calling themselves the astronauts, which I personally love, and kind of sharing not just their experience but really the history of Black experience and the space program in America,” Pedro Vazquez, chair of the city’s Human Rights Commission, said. “There have been Black astronauts for almost as long as there’s been a space program. There was a gentleman who was selected to be an astronaut back in the 60s and, because of racism, he wasn’t allowed to fly, and so that’s part of that story.”

Bomba in Maine

Saturday, Feb. 24, from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at Redbank Community Center (95 Macarthur Cir W, South Portland)

Community members are encouraged to join this lively, free event with Bomba De Aqui, a dance, music, and education collective that carries on the tradition and culture of a musical and communications style that developed in sugar plantations by enslaved Africans in the 17th century. The principal educator and dancer, BrendaLiz Cepeda, is the descendant of one of the families that has been instrumental in stewarding and bringing this product of its time into the modern era.

“Brings a communication system from the past that we know as bomba, which many folks understood to be a musical style, but really it was not just music but also communication and it was developed by enslaved Africans in the 17th century,” Vazquez explained. “The family that has been responsible for stewarding that cultural to the modern era is going to be visiting us.”

Vazquez said the theme of this year’s Black History Month events is “Honoring the Past, Celebrating the Present, and Inspiring the Future.”

Vazquez also mentioned it’s important for everyone to take part in Black History Month events.

“Filling the gaps of our history, filling the gaps of what we know as a nation,” he said. “There’s like this methodology that we all understand and belief about how this country came to be and about how we go forward into the future, and really there’s some very significant gaps in that methodology which include the contributions of Black Americans.”

Both events are free and open to the public.

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