February 4, 2009
Alabama: Black Belt Arts Initiative
The Black Belt region of Alabama, named for the rich topsoil that covers the region, is comprised of 13 counties spanning the middle of the state. Black Belt communities played an important role in the Civil Rights Movement. Selma, in the heart of the Black Belt, was chosen by African American civil rights leaders as the site from which to launch the march on Montgomery. Today the region is plagued with severe economic, health, housing and education issues and has experienced declining populations.
The Black Belt Arts Initiative (BBAI) was developed in response to the governor’s Black Belt Action Commission’s call for state action in the region. The BBAI is a partnership between the Alabama State Council on the Arts (ASCA), the Black Belt Community Foundation (BBCF) and the Black Belt Action Commission‘s Culture and Youth Committee. The goals of the initiative are to enhance arts offerings in the region, to strengthen arts education in Black Belt school districts, and to celebrate the cultural expressions of the region. These goals are accomplished through a regranting relationship between the ASCA and the BBCF, ASCA granting and technical assistance to schools in the region, and through annual special arts projects.
This year’s special project is teaching children of the region how they can turn oral history and historical research into a dramatic presentation. After watching Ella Joyce, a celebrated African-American actress, perform her one-woman show about Rosa Parks, the school groups will conduct interviews and research about the civil rights icons of their communities and families. With the help of a drama consultant, they will take the collected oral histories and research and turn them into a dramatic presentation. For additional information, contact Alabama State Council on the Arts Deputy Director Barbara Edwards.
In this Issue
Executive Director's Column
State to State
Did You Know?
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