A lecture by Henry Louis Gates Jr. — the renowned Harvard professor who has traced the ancestry of Oprah Winfrey, Denzel Washington and other celebrities — is one of several Northwestern University events marking Black History Month.

A lecture by Henry Louis Gates Jr. — the renowned Harvard professor who has traced the ancestry of Oprah Winfrey, Denzel Washington and other celebrities — is one of several Northwestern University events marking Black History Month.

A controversial play exploring race and identity, an address by former Washington, D.C. Mayor Adrian Venty and a festival of African culture also are planned.

The following events are free and open to the public unless otherwise noted:

Harambee Celebration 2011, 5 to 7 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 30, in the Louis Room of Norris University Center, 1999 Campus Drive. “Harambee” — which means “come together” in Swahili — is an annual event that launches the University’s Black History Month celebration.

It will feature traditional soul, Cajun/Creole, Caribbean and Ethiopian food and performances. Entertainment will be provided by student choral and dance groups including the Northwestern Community Ensemble, singing anthems, spirituals, hymn arrangements and gospel, praise and worship songs; Soul4Real, an a cappella group that sings gospel, Motown and contemporary songs; and Movement, a student group that showcases African, Caribbean, Afro-Caribbean and African-American dancing and stepping styles.

Special guests will be the Najwa Dance Corps, which will perform traditional West African celebration dances. Sponsored by African American Student Affairs and For Members Only, the event is funded by the Student Activities Funding Committee.

“Spinning Into Butter,” by Rebecca Gilman, directed by Derrick Sanders, 8 p.m. Friday, Jan. 28; 8 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 29; 2 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 30; 8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 3; 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 4; 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 5; and 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 6, Josephine Louis Theater, 20 Arts Circle Drive.

“Spinning Into Butter” explores race, racism and political correctness. Directed by Derrick Sanders, artistic director, University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), this thought-provoking play by award-winning School of Communication faculty member Rebecca Gilman asks if values are absolute or subject to circumstance.

Single-tickets are $20 for the general public; $18 for seniors 65 and older, Northwestern faculty and staff and area educators and administrators; and $10 for full-time students with IDs and Northwestern alumni who graduated within the past two years. Single-tickets may be purchased through the TIC Box Office at (847) 491-7282 or online at www.tic.northwestern.edu.

“Tech Noir: The Art of Stephen Flemister and Krista Franklin” exhibition, Feb. 10 through March 16, Dittmar Memorial Gallery, first floor, Norris University Center. Drawing inspiration from the book “Black Looks: Race and Representation” by bell hooks, “Tech Noir” explores the portrait as social portrayal.

In 20 mixed medium collages, paintings and sketches, Chicago-based artists Krista Franklin and Stephen Flemister examine “Black Looks” from a broad range of perspectives. For more information on Flemister, visit http://stephenflemister.com. For more on Franklin, visit http://www.kristafranklin.com. An opening reception at 6 p.m. Friday, Feb. 11, is free and open to the public.

Leon Forrest Lecture by Henry Louis Gates, Jr., “Exploring Our Roots: Genealogy, Genetics and African American History,” 4 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 17, in Room LR2 of the Technological Institute, 2145 Sheridan Road.

An ardent champion of African American Studies, Henry Gates Jr. will discuss the importance of understanding how your sense of self and your self-esteem are shaped through family history. In “Faces of America,” which aired on PBS last year, Gates explored the ancestry of Yo-Yo Ma, Stephen Colbert, Meryl Streep, Dr. Mehmet Oz and others. While the event is free and open to the public, seating is limited. Call (847) 491-5122 or visit planitpurple.northwestern.edu/event/403343 for more information.

African American Theatre Ensemble and Out Da Box presents “ODB: The Mixtape,” 8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 17; 8 and 11 p.m. Friday, Feb. 18; and 8 and 11 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 19, Shanley Hall, 2031 Sheridan Road. The annual comedy show features sketches and improvisations that challenge cultural stereotypes, societal norms and current events. Tickets are $5 and will be available at the Norris Center Box Office and at the door prior to each performance.

National Association of Black Journalists, Medill Crain Lecture Series, 4 p.m. Monday, Feb. 21, McCormick Tribune Center, 1870 Campus Drive. Angela Burt-Murray, former editor of Essence, will speak and take questions. The premiere lifestyle, fashion and beauty magazine for African-American women has a monthly readership of 8.5 million.

For information on other Evanston campus Black History Month events visit the African American Student Affairs (AASA) website. 

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