More Than a Month

The Color of Art still
Image courtesy of The Color of Art

More Than A Month at the Oak Park Public Library celebrates black history, art, and culture all year long. Inspired by filmmaker Shukree Hassan Tilghman, who called for Black History Month to be expanded beyond its typical February observance, we offer programs and conversations that promote year-round enrichment.

Focus in 2019: The African diaspora

In 2019, we’re focusing on the African diaspora, the mass scattering of peoples from Africa starting with the transatlantic slave trades, in which more than 10 million people were taken from Western and Central Africa to regions throughout the Americas and the Caribbean.

“This year we are bringing light to the experiences of people of African descent all around the world, not only in the United States, but also in places like Haiti, Cuba, South America, and Europe,” said Niki Yeldell, Dole Branch Supervisor and More Than a Month co-creator.

“It’s important to recognize the horrors and atrocities committed in the transatlantic slave trades,” said Naomi Priddy, Multicultural Learning Librarian. “But I really love that More Than a Month shines light on opportunities to celebrate as well. It balances the bitter with the sweet, and honors the ways new traditions came out of terrible circumstances.”

Hand mirror from Haiti
Hand mirror from Haiti
Vèvè stone from Haiti
Vèvè stone from Haiti

Discover more in our collections

Two Multicultural Collection artifacts—a hand mirror and a stone from Haiti—help show how pieces of African traditions survived by merging with local cultures.

Carved on the back of the stone, called a vèvè, is “Erzulie,” the name of the Haitian Vodou spirit who embodies love and feminine energy. Vodou emerged in Haiti when the religions of enslaved West Africans blended with beliefs of indigenous Taino people, plus European Roman Catholicism.

On the back of the hand mirror is what looks like Catholic imagery of the Virgin Mary and child. But the mirror is actually connected to Haitian Vodou as well, Priddy said.

Although enslaved West Africans and native Taino were forced to convert to Catholicism in Haiti, they continued worshipping spirits such as Erzulie by disguising them as Catholic saints. So while Erzulie can be represented as a goddess of love and a warrior mother, she also can be depicted as the Virgin Mary. Erzulie is a protector, and a response to the horrible abuses women suffered at the hands of slave masters.

Join us this February to discover more artifacts from the Multicultural Collection and celebrate African diaspora communities.

Learn from anywhere on

Now streaming on Kanopy: 800 documentaries in the Ethnicity and Identity collection—such as Race: The Power of an Illusion, a documentary series that dismantles so-called scientific beliefs about racial hierarchies, and shows how faulty science has been ingrained in our social and political systems.

More about Kanopy

  • Kanopy is a free digital video platform for Oak Park Public Library cardholders
  • Watch on a computer, mobile device, or streaming TV device
  • Check out 10 items per month—simultaneous access, no waiting
  • Lending period: 3 days

Read, listen, and watch: Explore all of the library’s digital collections »

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