How suburbs will mark the start of Black History Month, Chinese New Year on Tuesday

  • A new exhibit at Gail Borden Public Library in Elgin features "The Promise of Elgin" mural from downtown Elgin, which was designed in partnership with the community and installed by artist Pablo Serrano in the fall of 2021. The mural is based on the history of Elgin and the events of 2020.

    A new exhibit at Gail Borden Public Library in Elgin features "The Promise of Elgin" mural from downtown Elgin, which was designed in partnership with the community and installed by artist Pablo Serrano in the fall of 2021. The mural is based on the history of Elgin and the events of 2020. Courtesy of Gail Borden Public Library

  • U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor will talk about the release of her new children's book, "Just Help! How to Build a Better World," during a virtual Chicago Public Library event at 6 p.m. Wednesday.

    U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor will talk about the release of her new children's book, "Just Help! How to Build a Better World," during a virtual Chicago Public Library event at 6 p.m. Wednesday. Associated Press File Photo, 2021

  • This cover image released by Penguin Young Readers shows "Just Help! How to Build a Better World" by U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

    This cover image released by Penguin Young Readers shows "Just Help! How to Build a Better World" by U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Associated Press

  • Sonia Sotomayor

    Sonia Sotomayor

  • Michelle Duster

    Michelle Duster

 
 
Posted1/31/2022 5:30 AM

Tuesday marks the start of two big events on the calendar -- Black History Month and the Chinese Lunar New Year.

Throughout February, suburban communities, schools and colleges, libraries, and religious and secular groups will commemorate and celebrate the contributions of people of African descent.

 

A bit of trivia: American historian Carter G. Woodson established Black History Week -- then called "Negro History Week" -- nearly a century ago. It first was celebrated during the second week of February in 1926, as it coincided with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln (Feb. 12) and abolitionist/writer Frederick Douglass (Feb. 14), according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

It wasn't until 1976 when the commemoration was expanded to a month by presidential decree, as part of the nation's bicentennial.

Year of the Tiger

If you're wishing someone a happy Chinese New Year, here's how to say it: "Gong hei fat choy" is the most common greeting in Cantonese, which is spoken in parts of southern China and Hong Kong. It translates to "wishing you great happiness and prosperity." In Mandarin, the same greeting is "gong xi fa cai."

Each year of the Chinese calendar is assigned an animal of the zodiac, running on a 12-year cycle. The year 2021-22 was the Year of the Ox and the new year beginning Tuesday will be the Year of the Tiger. The zodiac sign is associated with strength, exorcising evils and bravery.

New year celebrations

Chinese Americans in Naperville and Aurora typically organize community celebrations marking the new year, but the usual revelry will be somewhat muted due to concerns over the spread of the omicron variant of COVID-19, community leaders said.

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Aurora's Pacifica Square will host a new year festival at 2 p.m. Tuesday, including a traditional Chinese lion and dragon dance, food, a gift ceremony and speeches by local elected officials and leaders.

The shopping center at 4300-4462 E. New York St. is home to a variety of Asian businesses and considered a suburban Chinatown.

Also, Lisle-based Ray Chinese School will conduct a virtual celebration from 7 to 9 p.m. Feb. 12 with its students performing, singing, dancing, and reciting poems in Chinese. The event also includes competitions in Chinese/English creative writing and composition, speech, and painting, with $10,000 given out in awards.

"This year, we will do the same $10,000 in awards," Principal Jason Xi said. Awards primarily are funded through donations from local Asian businesses, including from Pacifica Square in Aurora.

Ray is the largest Chinese school in the Midwest, serving more than 1,000 students in kindergarten through high school from the Naperville/Lisle/Aurora-area Asian communities for 30 years, Xi said.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

School leaders rent space at Kennedy Junior High School in Lisle for weekly lessons in Chinese, English, math, chess, drawing, speech, basketball, badminton, martial arts, dancing and yoga.

"Before (the pandemic) we always celebrate new year with an in-person performance at the school," Xi said. "Everybody could come and we typically have pretty large events."

Latina justice talk

U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor -- the first Latina on the nation's highest court -- will talk about the release of her new children's book, "Just Help! How to Build a Better World," during a virtual Chicago Public Library event at 6 p.m. Wednesday.

The book also is available in Spanish as "¡Solo Ayuda! Como construir un mundo mejor."

Sotomayor is an award-winning author of four books, including her first children's book, "Just Ask! Be Different, Be Brave, Be You," published in 2019. She will discuss her life, writing, and inspiration behind her latest book with award-winning Chicago author and sociologist of education Eve Ewing.

In "Just Help!," Sotomayor takes young readers on a journey through a neighborhood where kids and adults, activists and bus drivers, friends and strangers help one another build a better world.

To register for the Zoom event, visit bit.ly/3s0AJbQ.

MLK lecture

Author, professor and public historian Michelle Duster will present this year's Martin Luther King Jr. Intercultural Lecture Feb. 16, at Elmhurst University.

Duster, the great-granddaughter of journalist and activist Ida B. Wells, is a champion of racial and gender equity. Her talk will be on "Black Suffragists and the Fight for Inclusion."

She has written, edited and contributed to numerous books exploring and celebrating the historical contributions of African Americans. Her most recent book "Ida B. the Queen: The Extraordinary Life and Legacy of Ida B. Wells," was released in 2021.

The MLK lecture begins at 4 p.m. in the Frick Center, Founders Lounge, 190 Prospect Ave., Elmhurst. Admission is free but registration is encouraged and required for remote attendees. Visit elmhurst.edu/cultural.

Black history exhibit

Miniature versions of Fremont, Hickory and Ann streets and early residents of that area are featured in the rotunda of Gail Borden Public Library, 270 N. Grove, Elgin, as part of "The Settlement" exhibit.

The virtual opening of the exhibit kicks off at 1 p.m. Saturday.

Fremont, Hickory and Ann are the "3" streets featured in the Elgin History Museum/Grindstone Productions' documentary "Project 2-3-1: Two Boxcars, Three Blocks, One City." Library employees chose to highlight sample houses and residents of "The Settlement" area of Elgin for Black History Month.

Elgin historian and educator Ernie Broadnax helped open the exhibit, curated in partnership with the Elgin History Museum.

"I am so overwhelmed by this. A lot of work went into this exhibit," said Broadnax. "I am very, very honored to be part of this."

The exhibit also features "The Promise of Elgin" mural from downtown Elgin, designed in partnership with the community and installed by artist Pablo Serrano in the fall of 2021. It is based on the history of Elgin and the events of 2020.

For more information, visit gailborden.info/blackhistory.

To contribute stories about living in the settlement area now or in the past, email pradgbpl@gmail.com.

Black excellence

As part of Black History Month, Gail Borden Public Library in Elgin will host virtual interviews on Black excellence at noon every Thursday in February on Facebook, gbpl.info/fbvirtual.

Attendees will learn about what drives Black community members to strive for excellence and celebrate their achievements. Featured guests include Elgin's Poet Laureate Emeritus Chasity Gunn and Monique Howery, chef and proprietor of Moni's Soul food Fiesta.

Black Muslims

The Islamic Foundation of Villa Park will host a conversation with Sheikh Ubaydullah Evans on Black figures in Islamic history and exploring African American Muslim roots, 7:30 p.m. Friday, at the mosque, 300 W. Highridge Road.

Evans is a scholar in residence at the American Learning Institute for Muslims in Canton, Michigan.

The purpose of the program not only is to highlight Black History Month, but also to create awareness about the contributions of the African Americans to society and Islam in America, said Sheikh Noman Hussain, Islamic Foundation's new resident scholar.

"Sometimes, immigrant Muslims don't read or understand the impact of people like Malcolm X or Muhammad Ali or Warith Deen Mohammed ... and the impact that they had on Islam in America," Hussain said.

Hussain said the goal also is to have deeper conversations about race, social justice, societal inequities and biases, including within Muslim communities.

"A lot of times we shy away from these topics," he said. "We want to change that culture. We have real talent in the African American leadership of our community."

The event is open to community members. It will be a lecture format followed by a question-and-answer session.

• Share stories, news and happenings from the suburban mosaic at mkrishnamurthy@dailyherald.com.

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