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The Schomburg Center shares love of Black history

Misani | 4/12/2011, 5:27 p.m.

Every day of every month of every year is Black History at the world-renowned Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture of the New York Public Library. However, it is especially during Black History Month in February that the landmark 515 Malcolm X Boulevard building, at 135th Street in Harlem, becomes an exceptionally powerful magnetic force, pulling everyone into its vibrant sphere. Helmed by Dr. Howard Dodson, the Schomburg world is defined by history and culture, as well as its link to achievement and greatness.

From notable, groundbreaking exhibitions, to a wide variety of educational and entertaining programs, the Schomburg Center offers it all, from opera to jazz, from theater to film, from literary works to browsing through the marvelous state-of-the art institution. This month is one of the most meaningful months for families, couples and singles to experience New York's premier repository of "the history of peoples of African descent throughout the world."

Although you may have missed the brilliant February 1 "Opera at the Schomburg" when City Opera and Opera Noire of New York artists joined forces to present the seldom performed live excerpts from "Treemonisha," "Ouanga," and "Four Saints in Three Acts," and other operatic offerings, fear not. On Monday, February 26 at 3 p.m., the Harlem Opera Theatre pays tribute to Black History Month with excerpts from Duke Ellington's celebrated opera "Queenie Pie," which will be performed by classical singers. The setting for this timeless piece is Harlem, a world where "Queenie" once ruled. Now, however, with her youthful days behind her, she vainly ventures forth in search of it. Will she find it? You're all invited to the Schomburg to discover the answer for yourselves.

You may have also missed the fantastic February 6 book signing of "The Lion and the Mouse" by Jerry Pinkney, the renowned author-illustrator of over 100 children's books, and that's really serious. This title received the exalted Randolph Caldecott Award on January 18. The Schomburg also offered an excellent selection of some of Jerry Pinkney's other titles for purchase in the Schomburg Shop. Amongst them, "Sweethearts of Rhythm," "The Old African," "Black Cowboys" and "Wild Horses."

Yes, you may not have gotten to this event, however, you have another chance to see Pinkney's work in the ongoing exhibition, "Jerry Pinkney's African American Journey to Freedom." This exhibition, from the Seagram Collection of African-American Art, is a stunning collection of 35 watercolor paintings that exemplify a far-reaching mix of people and events in African-American history. Yes! This is a must-see for the entire family.

While the spotlight is focused on exhibitions, let's look at another one that is certain to pique your interest. It's the "President Barack Obama: The First Year" display featuring the photos of Pete Souza, chief official White House photographer. For this exhibition, Souza selected 78 of his favorite photographs depicting distinctive inside views of President Barack Obama's historic first year. Enriching each photograph are Souza's own captions, which serve to convey the events he was seeing through his lens. (This exhibition will certainly bring back memories for so many of us who watched President Obama's swearing in last year from the Schomburg's Langston Hughes Auditorium.)