African American Heritage Celebration Week

By: Matthew McBirth

The first official African American history celebration was held in 1926, when the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History organized a weeklong event to honor and promote the achievements of African Americans. Less than a century later, our nation continues to highlight African American history and the many contributions African Americans have made in the United States. Last month, under the leadership of Matthew McBirth and OCC's Diversity Department, Ozark celebrated its first African American Heritage Celebration Week.

The week began with a meal at Joplin's Me’s Place: Soul Food Cafe, where students enjoyed delicious comfort food made by former Joplin mayor and current council member Melodee Colbert-Kean. Student R.J. Harbison read a poem by Joplin native Langston Hughes, and Mrs. Colbert-Kean shared about Joplin's significant black history. That evening, students gathered to watch The Wiz: Live to celebrate African American talent and creativity through dance, music and drama.

Throughout the week, artwork made by OCC students and staff was displayed in the Student Center. The art was inspired by quotes from influential African American leaders such as Maya Angelou, Martin Luther King, Jr., and John M. Perkins.

Finally, on Friday, February 17, the Diversity Department hosted a party to end the week. Students had a great time eating food and dancing to African American music from the 1950s through 2010s. The night's highlight was dance lessons. Kasey Davis and student Ashley Crisler taught the history and beginning steps of the Lindy Hop, and student Josiah Javier taught a hip-hop dance routine he'd created.

African American Heritage Celebration Week not only honored African American culture, but also honored God through that culture. Through storytelling, dance, food, art and more, students celebrated the image of God revealed through African American culture. For more information on OCC's Diversity Department, heritage celebration events or Mosaic Leadership scholarship, contact Matthew McBirth or visit 

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