FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
WPKN Celebrates Black History Month in February
BRIDGEPORT, CT, January 20, 2023—WPKN, at 89.5 on the FM band and at wpkn.org, celebrates an expanded Black History Month throughout February 2023 with a broad and in-depth program including music, poetry, interviews, authors, and film. This one-month recognition of African-Americans is intended to develop a deeper understanding of Black history in the U.S. and celebrate the inestimable contribution of Black people to all aspects of American culture.
Throughout the month, radio programmers will present interviews with African-American musicians, noted African-American authors and poets. Pre-recorded speeches and discussions will feature leaders Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and Cornel West, authors James Baldwin and Toni Morrison, spoken-word artists Sonia Sanchez and Jayne Cortez, plus the famous appearance of actor/singer/activist Paul Robeson before the House Committee on Un-American Activities in 1956.
Public events will include the newly released films Homecoming, a documentary chronicling Beyoncé’s monumental performance at the 2018 Coachella music festival; and Judas and The Black Messiah, about Black Panther Party leader Fred Hampton. Additional special features will include the Make It Funky concert, Gang Poetry, and a culminating finale presentation of the world-acclaimed Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company at the Quick Center at Fairfield University.
More than 50 programs will be spread across the month. Full streaming of the events and the daily schedule are available at WPKN.org. The WPKN Black History Advisory Committee is headed up by Ebong Udoma, who has been a WPKN volunteer for 40 years. Distinguished committee members include Sheena Graham, Dr. Kris Sealey, Rob Fried, Christina Smith, Dr. Dwayne Smith, Preston Tisdale, and Kim Bianca Williams.
WPKN 2023 Black History Celebration Schedule
Feb. 4, Saturday, Make It Funky – Celebrating the Music of Black America, Bijou Theatre, 8 p.m., $30/$40.
Funk It Up with the heaviest funk in Connecticut, featuring the What’s Up Funk Band and the Bernadettes: high-energy classic Motown, soul, funk, rock and reggae with tinges of jazz and blues, including music by Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, The Temptations, Aretha Franklin, Earth Wind & Fire, James Brown, Otis Redding, Gladys Knight and the Pips and many, many more. Produced by Mega Bass and WPKN.
Feb. 8, Wednesday, Homecoming (Beyoncé), Bijou Theatre, 7:20 p.m., $10.
Homecoming is a documentary chronicling Beyoncé’s monumental performance at the 2018 Coachella music festival. Quotes from distinguished African-American creatives and intellectuals appear at various points between footage of the concert and its tireless gestation, including W.E.B DuBois, Nina Simone, Toni Morrison and Reginald Lewis, suggesting not only Beyoncé’s reverence for her forerunners but her own by-now-unequivocal stature in the pantheon of black American greatness. Beyoncé, joined on stage by more than 200 performers, turns that soundbite into a triumphant roar, crafting an experience whose emphasis on the whole—the masterfully synchronized and color-coordinated corps of dancers, back-up singers, majorettes, trumpet players, et. al.—gives it the feeling of visual, aural communion. Beyoncé is the priestess, the ringleader, insistent on her authorship of this one-of-a-kind spectacle, which marked the first time a Black woman had ever headlined Coachella. (137 min.)
4/15, Wednesday, Judas and The Black Messiah, Bijou Theatre, 7:30 p.m., $10.
Shaka King, said a reviewer, “has pulled off the near impossible, taking a story of an anti-capitalist civil rights martyr who we know will have a tragic, bloody end, and approaching it with daring and confidence.” The 2021 biographical crime dramatic film centers on the betrayal of Fred Hampton, chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party in late-1960s Chicago, by William O’Neal an FBI informant. Directed and produced by Shaka King, it was premiered at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival and earned six Oscar nominations at the 93rd Academy Awards. (126 min.)
Feb. 17, Friday, Rhythm of Power, Bijou Theatre, 8 p.m., General Admission $30; tables $35; VIP Room $350.
Gang Poetry (Gaining Attention Nonstop Globally) and Teacher of the Year 2019 Sheena Graham present a World Premiere evening of spoken word, historical vignettes, theatrical mash-ups from historical Black (undisclosed) history to the events of today. Featuring educator, songwriter, poet Sheena Graham and the CGE Studios of Bridgeport.
February 18, Saturday, Conversations with Sheena Graham & The Gang, 1:30 p.m., Community Room, WPKN Studios, Free
This is WPKN’s first dialogue and presentation of Bridgeport-based African-America poets/writers with reading and public discourse in the WPKN Community Room. It’s a cross-generational afternoon with Teacher of the Year Sheena Graham and CGE Studios Gang Poets. The writers discuss the impact on their work of a range of social, economic and political realities of life in a community plagued with poverty and violence. The moderator is Professor Kris Sealy, director of the Black Studies Program at Fairfield University. Sponsored by Connecticut Humanities.
Feb. 25, Saturday, Bill T Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, Quick Center for the Arts, Fairfield University, 7:30 p.m., $50/VIP $100.
For the first time in nearly a decade, the New York-based international award-winning modern dance company Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company will perform in Fairfield County at Fairfield University’s Quick Center for the Arts. This performance has been selected as the finale of WPKN’s Black History Month celebration, and is a benefit for nonprofit, community radio WPKN. All ticket purchases will also support enabling Bridgeport students from the FAME after-school program to attend the performance.
The Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company was created in 1982, out of an 11-year collaboration between Bill T. Jones and Arnie Zane (1948–1988). During this time, they redefined the duet form and foreshadowed issues of identity, form and social commentary that would change the face of American dance. The company has performed worldwide in more than 200 cities in 40 countries on every major continent, and is recognized as one of the most innovative and powerful forces in the dance-theater world. Bill T. Jones is a choreographer, MacArthur Genius Awardee, and two-time Tony Award winner.