Library hosts Black Media is Beautiful series in February



Yiqun Chen, a professor of jazz studies at SDSU, leads the presentation on influential black musicians at the Brookings Public Library.

Maria Atkinson, Reporter

The Brookings Public Library is hosting an event series called ‘Black Media is Beautiful’ honoring African American creators during Black History Month.

Mikaela Neubauer, the community services coordinator at the library, said that since the library started the Black History Month presentations in 2020, people have become more engaged in exploring different sides of black history. 

“People come together, we have food, fellowship, activities, presentations, and it’s just an all-around really fun event,” Neubauer said. “Last year we doubled our attendance, this year who knows where we will go to from there.”

The events cover a range of media including music, film, visual arts, literature and food. The event on Feb. 1 displayed black media in music, specially contributions to the genre of jazz.  Honored at the event was Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Miles Davis and other contributions to jazz. 

The presenter of the night, Yiqun Chen, a professor in jazz studies, said that learning about jazz history as a student exposed him to how important black musicians are to jazz. 

“Contributions of African American musicians and composers to the art form is unique to our country,” Chen said. “Their contributions are super important.” 

Amanda Fickes, an attendee of the event, described it as a great opportunity in Brookings to expand ones’ ideas. 

“It’s definitely great to have so much going on because it makes me more aware of this month and more thoughtful about the history,” Fickes said. “It’s cool to have opportunities like this in Brookings to expand your knowledge.”

This reaction is exactly what Neubauer is hoping to achieve with these events.

 “It sparks something and all of a sudden you want to know everything about jazz, you want to know everything about black filmmakers, so I hope that it leads to further engagement with black media and a further interest in black history,” Neubauer said. “Getting people here and interested will allow people to continue that interest in other parts of the year.”

Last year’s event series was disrupted by a group of “zoombombers” that drew lewd images and racial slurs on the screen while shouting and eposing themselves during a presentation from Negro League Baseball historian Phil Dixon. This year, technological measures havge been taken to avoid a similar incident.

“We learned from last year that what we do is so much stronger than any prejudice and hate we may face,” Neubauer said. “Instead of deterring us, I think it has spurred us on because we are obviously doing something that is worth people getting upset about.”

The ‘Black Media is Beautiful’ series is hoping to inspire the people of Brookings to seek out and engage with black media throughout the entire year. Neubauer hopes that this excitement for learning will promote further interest in these topics.

 “This is more than a month, black media exists all the time – it’s every day, every month of the year and we need to acknowledge that and engage in that.”