Af-Am house moves into community

February is filled with various events and activities that engage New Haven’s community in the celebration of black history, with many of these events occurring on or around the Yale campus. An example of this celebration is Cultural Caravan, a traveling show that “takes the [Afro-American] house into the community,” said Eliada Nwosu ’02, a planner for Cultural Caravan.

Started in February 2001, Cultural Caravan is part of the Afro-American Cultural Center’s outreach program to educate children about black culture and history. The program incorporates the performances of various Yale groups into a story about the past and current struggles and achievements of blacks.

Through the use of songs, dances, storytellers, skits and dramatizations to convey the history of black people in America, this traveling show seeks both to educate and entertain young audiences in New Haven.

The groups involved with the program are Steppin’ Out, Konjo! Traditional African Dance Troupe, and Yale Gospel Choir.

Cultural Caravan also has a group of about 10 actors who regularly perform in the show. The program travels primarily to local elementary schools and community centers to perform for children in the New Haven community.

Originally slated as a traveling show for the month of February, the program has expanded due to tremendous popularity and numerous requests. Cultural Caravan has performed at Vincent E. Mauro Elementary School, Timothy Dwight Elementary School, Troup Middle School, a local YMCA and several other schools.

“Yale students want to go where the community is but also want to inspire New Haven youth with what Yale has to offer,” said Pamela George, an assistant dean of Yale College and the director of the cultural center.

The traveling show already has several reservations for next year and is considering the possibility of year-round tours.

On Feb. 8, Cultural Caravan held a performance at the Yale University Art Gallery lecture hall commemorating the start of Black History Month. The event, organized by the Afro-American Cultural Center, brought over 320 elementary school students to the Yale campus.

The day’s activities included a tour of Yale’s campus, a tour of the Langston Hughes exhibit at Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library for the fifth graders, Cultural Caravan’s performance at the art gallery, and lunch at the cultural center.

Yale students do much of the organizing for Cultural Caravan. Nwosu is the chief planner, and with the help of George, the Caravan Committee and staff members at the cultural center, Cultural Caravan has expanded to bring black culture and history to more students in the New Haven community.

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