Celebrate Harriet Tubman at Peralta Colleges



Wanda Ravernell
Harriet Tubman

History, says Wanda Ravernell of Omnira Institute, is not a subject you study. It is something you live with.
Day in and day out, we live with the choices made in the past, choices that continue to affect us.
“It is important to know that history,” said Ravernell,  “because it frames the choices we make for ourselves that impact the future.”
With Peralta students, the Omnira Institute is going to bring a program to Berkeley City College on Thursday, March 14 at the Atrium during the college hour at noon .
Although Black History Month  has just passed, Ravernell is taking advantage of another significant date for this program.
“We don’t know the exact date of the birth of our great heroine Harriet Tubman, but we do know the date of her death: March 10, 1913,” Ravernell said. The 101st Congress memorialized the date as Harriet Tubman Day in 1990. “This year is the centennial of her death. It’s a tremendous opportunity to nudge Black History observations from February to other months of the year,” she said.
At Berkeley City College, the African American Culture Club has joined in. Donna Ayo designed the flyer for the March 14 presentation on the campus. The event will be repeated at Laney College April 11 at noon.
Ramona Butler, assistant to the dean at Berkeley City and staff advisor to the African American club, is encouraging students to attend the presentation.
“Black History Month is not just in February. We are honored to host such a program at the college.  I have asked the Berkeley City College faculty to give extra credit for participating in this monumental event, “
Last month, Laney celebrated the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. Though many students, young and old, have never heard of it, the signing of the proclamation by President Lincoln in 1863 was a colossal political and economic turning point for the nation.
It meant the beginning of the end of slavery, which had lasted for 244 years. And it was a major victory for a group of people trying to abolish slavery and enforce equal rights for free Black men and women through legal means.
“A lot of people don’t know there was another Civil Rights movement and that the words and ideas of the Civil Rights movement led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X had precedents,” Ravernell said.
Omnira Institute has been putting on lecture demonstrations of African and African American history using music and movement and narratives.
In this year’s program, Peralta college theater students will collaborate with Omnira by doing staged readings of those Civil Rights leaders of the 1800s, including historic leaders such as David Walker, Henry Highland Garnet, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Frances E.W. Harper and Charlotte Forten Grimke.
William Oliver III, a theater major at Laney, is playing  the parts of David Walker and Henry Highland Garnet . “I love African American culture.  I always like doing things like that,” he said. “I take any opportunity to speak on behalf of and for my people.”
“What made me take the role, said Venus Morris, a Laney Theater student who will portray Harriet Tubman, “is that I like challenges. And what I am getting our of this role I am going to feel more in line with my ancestors.”
For more information call (510) 436-0658.