Celebration, remembrance & honoring: Whitney Plantation preparing Black History Month events

Published 12:08 am Saturday, January 27, 2018

WALLACE — Whitney Plantation program organizer Courtni Waguespack said watching people come together to celebrate Black History’s hardships and triumphs feels a lot like a homecoming.

Waguespack headed last year’s inaugural month-long Black History Month celebration at Whitney Plantation, the only plantation in the South dedicated to portraying the harsh reality of slavery.

The program was well received and attracted a lot of attention, Waguespack said. The Black History lineup returns this year with the addition of documentary screenings and a closing session.

The team at Whitney Plantation in Wallace includes Director of Marketing Joy Banner, from left, tour guide Susan Gebhardt and program organizer Courtni Waguespack.

“This month, every activity we have is all about celebration, remembrance and honoring the people that made sacrifices for us,” Waguespack said.

“We talk about some pretty heavy stuff all year long. I think that February is a good time to pause for a moment and celebrate. We do have a lot that we still need to fight for, and there are some issues socially that we need to fix, but until then, we can still acknowledge some of the successes of the people.”

The month-long program, themed “African Americans in Times of War,” kicks off with a Black Out Injustice Opening Mixer from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday at Whitney Plantation.

Live entertainment, a zydeco band, dancing and a selection of appetizers highlight the event. Tickets are $20 at the door and $15 when pre-ordered at the following web address: eventbrite.com/e/black-out-injustice-mixer-at-whitney-plantation-tickets-42202572029.

Patrons on tour look on at The Wall of Honor, a memorial dedicated to all the people who were enslaved at Whitney Plantation.

Guests are asked to wear all black.

Each program following the opening mixer is free and open to the public, according to Waguespack.

Visiting researcher Zann Nelson will deliver a lecture titled “A Journey to Connect Victims of the Domestic Slave Trade with Living Descendants” at 3 p.m. Feb. 3 at Whitney Plantation.

Waguespack said Nelson has located the descendants of 16 enslaved Virginians sold by former U.S. President James Madison to a slave owner in Louisiana.

Some of the descendants will be in attendance, Waguespack said. The talk also features tips to help those with enslaved ancestors track family lineage.

A social media panel is being offered at 6 p.m. Feb. 6 at Xavier University in New Orleans.

Focused on examining how online communication has fueled civil rights movements, the panel includes representatives from Xavier University and Colleen Murphy from the Center for Ethical Living and Social Justice Renewal, among others.

Slave quarters from nearby plantations are representative of the cabins that once lined Whitney Plantation. They help teach the public about the harsh history of slavery.

A showing of the crime film/documentary “13th” will be offered to the public from 5 to 8 p.m. Feb. 16 at Whitney Plantation.

Director of Marketing Joy Banner said the film explores the history and impact of the 13th Amendment that abolished slavery and involuntary servitude except as punishment for convicted criminals.

A multi-faith blessing of the Whitney Plantation grounds, an occasion that drew a crowd of more than 100 from New Orleans last year, will take place at 1 p.m. Feb. 18.

Dr. Ibrahima Seck, director of research at Whitney Plantation, will deliver a lecture titled “African Influence in Louisiana” at 1 p.m. Feb. 20 at Southern University at New Orleans.

A documentary screening of the 2017 film “Teach Us All” will be shown from 5 to 8 p.m. Feb. 24 at Whitney Plantation. Banner said the film focuses on the inequality of education in America, a consistent theme of discussion in the black community in relation to crime rates and poverty.

The month ends with a closing ceremony promoting reflection and empowerment from 2 to 5 p.m. Feb. 25 at Whitney Plantation.

The “Big House” can be seen on tours. A blessing of the grounds will take place at 1 p.m. Feb. 18 at the Plantation.

Banner said the programs attract a lot of people because black history has been under-represented in the region.

When it is mentioned, it’s often a source of controversy, which inhibits progress.

“People want to honor and celebrate their culture,” Banner said. “We embrace a very difficult part of our history because it’s our past.”

Everyone is invited, Banner said, and the plantation tours offered from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. every day except on Tuesdays attract a diverse crowd.

“We’re putting more awareness to black presence and contributions to America, but it’s not just black history. It’s all of our history,” she said.

Banner and Waguespack extend a special invitation to veterans to participate.

For more information, visit whitneyplantation.com or email jbanner@whitneyplantation.com.