Jamestown Settlement will hold a celebration of black women in America

Staff writer

The history and tenacity of black women in America will be admired at the Jamestown Settlement next week as part of the museum’s first “After Angelo: Celebrating Black Women in America.”

The Feb. 23 program, part of the museum’s African-American Cultural Heritage Month, will feature female speakers, presentations, music and performances from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in honor of the first African woman recorded by name in Jamestown. The museum also will host a Night of Jazz and Blues from 6-10 p.m.

The celebration begins at 10 a.m. in the Robins Foundation Theater with an opening ceremony honoring the first African arrivals in 1619 and with it the perseverance of African women and men in Virginia.

Cassandra Newby-Alexander, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and a history professor at Norfolk State University, will serve as the event’s keynote speaker and will lead a discussion on “Building the Black Community” at 11 a.m., according to the museum.

Newby-Alexander said her presentation will look at the lives and positions of women of color, whose ancestry stems from Africa originally, and what their lives looked like in Virginia and colonial America.

“The takeaway is that we start looking at things through a different lens, not a mythological lens that makes everything wonderful and sweet,” Newby-Alexander said. “But rather, (a way that) gives us a better sense and understanding of our real past as a way of informing our present and future.”

The program is in conjunction with the museum’s “TENACITY: Women in Jamestown and Early Virginia” exhibition, which runs through January 2020 and examines women from three cultures in Virginia in 1619.

Exhibition Program Manager for Tenacity Abigail Schumann said 1619 is a big anniversary year for the Jamestown Settlement as it was the year of the first legislative assembly, the arrival of the first Africans, as well as the recruitment of the first women to come over for the sole purpose of marriage.

“It’s history of women who were marginalized historically,” Schumann said. “You learn about Powhatan women and African women and English women who were each tenacious in their own right.”

A moderated panel discussion will follow the keynote on “Re-interpreting History through the Lives and Eyes of Black Women.”

Live entertainment will be provided at the museum all day and will feature performances by Time for Two Violin & Cello Duo, Claves Unidos dance collective and Masaharu Effect with vocalist Kristen Merritt.

In the museum’s Great Hall and galleries, families can enjoy storytelling, as well as face painting, crafts and games.

Atumpan Edutainment, a nonprofit organization which seeks to provide affordable and accessible opportunities for artists’ development off stage, will provide entertainment and education.

According to President and Founding Member LaQuita Staten, the organization’s ensemble ACT Dance Theatre will perform during the opening ceremony and also will provide interactive music, storytelling, reenactments and tribal face painting, including Shuri face paint from the Black Panther film.

“They can get some of the popular face paint from different tribes around the continent of Africa, specifically West Africa,” Staten said. “We’ll also have a dance circle with African dance and song. Visitors and patrons will be able to come over and play some of the traditional African music.”

Little is known about Angelo, except that she arrived in 1619 as an enslaved woman from the Portuguese colony of Angola in west-central Africa. But her story is recorded in the 1625 “Muster of the Inhabitants of Virginia,” loaned to the Jamestown Settlement from The National Archives.

“We’re commemorating Angelo. What we want to do is look at that legacy and bring it into the 21st century and celebrate the tenacious women we have today,” Schumann said.

Want to go?

When: Feb. 23 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. A Night of Jazz & Blues 6 to 10 p.m.

Where: Robins Foundation Theater and Rotunda at Jamestown Settlement.

All daytime activities associated with After Angelo are included with museum admission. Residents of York County, James City County, Williamsburg and William and Mary students have free access to the museum.

Tickets to the evening concert featuring Liz Montgomery & Jazz Trio and Jackie Scott & The Housewreckers are $20.

Martin can be reached at (757)-243-3685, by email at sararose.martin@vagazette.com or on Twitter at @SaraRoseMartin.

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