The Crocker Art Museum celebrates Black History Month

02/18/2014 12:00 AM

02/18/2014 12:08 AM

On the second floor of the Crocker Art Museum, Kinaya Foster stood in front of a glass case filled with African sculpture and told her son, Kaleb, about African art. Then members of St. Gabriel’s Celestial Brass Band paraded by, part of the museum’s free Black History Month family festival on Monday.

“It’s all just a matter of cultural awareness,” Foster said after the horns blared past them. “I try to educate my son about our culture.”

And Kaleb, a 12-year-old Greenhaven middle school student, got the point.

“All this says to me that people care,” he said.

For the third year, the museum celebrated Presidents Day by treating families to a day of art, music and hands-on events. In addition to touring the second-floor exhibits of African and African American art, visitors could play on handmade instruments in one display and learn how to string their own beads in another.

Visitors could also listen to the wisdom of Sacramento quilters in the Sisters Quilting Collective exhibit, dance along with Tina B and the Sacramento Soul Line Dancers, and watch a tribute to the Jacksons, performed by dancers from the Studio T Urban Dance Academy.

“For me, this is showing the community the culture of my ancestors’ roots,” said Asia Sandifer, 17, who performed with the Studio T hip-hop dance group. “Performing is what I do, but this is something people should know about.

“Everybody knows what black people suffered through, but everybody doesn’t know about our art.”

The family festival was expected to draw more than 2,000 visitors, said Maria Robinson, the museum’s communications director.

In the craft bazaar in the museum’s lobby, visitors could browse through handmade items like jewelry, cards, T-shirts and crocheted hats.

Quilting artist Debbra Murphy displayed the hand-pieced quilt she designed as a tribute to Harriet Tubman, using in the pattern many of the symbols that the Underground Railroad network used to guide escaping slaves safely to freedom.

“The abolitionists used quilts to give escapees direction and let them know what was going on,” Murphy said. “If they saw a basket pattern on a quilt hanging on a line or over a fence, they knew it was time to get going. If they saw a bear’s paw pattern, they were to follow the trail to water and food.

“This quilt is my contribution to keeping the story alive. Our kids need something to believe in.”

But the kids also wanted to have fun.

Maya Philipp, an 11-year-old who lives in Folsom, looked a little wide-eyed when the brass band marched by on its way from the second-floor balcony down a long hallway and into the ballroom in the museum’s original Crocker mansion wing.

“She plays the trumpet, too,” said her father, George Philipp. “I wanted her to see the black history exhibits, and I wanted her to hear the music.”

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