February is a month to celebrate Black History and Alcorn State University (ASU) took part by inviting Jerry Jenkins, an explorer, historian and musician, to give an interactive presentation on the history of black people. The event, “A Look at Mande (West African) Culture Through Traditional Music,” was hosted in the Biotechnology Auditorium on February 13th at 12:30 pm.
Jenkins began his presentation after being introduced by Dr. Renardo Murray, Associate Dean, College of Arts and Sciences. He discussed his life as a child in Chicago, Illinois and how he wanted a well-rounded education which led him to begin looking into history. He began exploring and learning about tribes in West Africa, such as the Mandingo, Mali and Igbo Tribe. He talked of the destruction of African communities, and then spoke on African culture which is ingrained in all people.
Jenkins then included the members of the audience in a call and answer chant. He added members of the audience to the drums and began teaching them a certain African song. He then explained the history and the meaning behind the centuries-old song and then guided the audience to sing the song again.
One of Jenkins’ associates gathered ladies from the audience to dance with her. She guided them throughout the moves of the dance to the words of the song. “It was a powerful experience to sing a song that so many of our ancestors have sung,” said LaNya Taylor, a Criminal Justice major, who was in the audience.
Audience participant, Christina Larson stated, “The entire program was nice, but I liked the dancing part of the presentation. It was fun and authentic at the same time.”
After the first song, Jenkins began to give more history on how rhythm and words were what brought African communities together. Many African people were nomadic, so they all spoke different languages, but through music and melody, they could be joyous together. “Throughout times of discourse, many African people sang. They played drums on their way to war to lift their spirits,” stated Jenkins.
After the history lesson on the first song, Jenkins educated the audience on a second song. This was a song that people would sing to raise their spirits. It was fast and upbeat. It didn’t take long for the audience to catch on to this song. He ended this song with the history of the drums and how they are found in every part of the world. “Drums are universal as are people and everything else in the world,” he stated.
Afterwards, Jenkins had a Question-and-Answer session with the audience. The program was concluded by Dr. Babu Patlolla, Dean, College of Arts and Sciences. He stated, “I put together this event to ensure that students could have a look at Black History but in another light, I wanted to give the students an opportunity to learn about music and rhythm and the part it plays in their history.”