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Inlandia Institute and UCR ARTS to honor Black History Month at Culver Center

A month-long celebration of African American culture is set to serve Riverside, courtesy of Inlandia Institute and UCR ARTS' Black History Month offerings.

James Coats hosts 'Black Dads Who Write' at UCR ARTS in February 2023 (Courtesy Inlandia Institute).

Inlandia Institute and UCR ARTS will commemorate Black History Month with a series of programs throughout February. These events aim to explore and celebrate the profound influence of African American Vernacular English (AAVE) on writing and mainstream culture while also shedding light on important historical narratives.

The Blacklandia Events Series will kick off on Sunday, February 4, from 1:30-3:00 PM, with a program titled "Remaking Language: AAVE's Influence on Culture" at the Barbara and Art Culver Center of the Arts, located at 3824 Main Street in Riverside. This event will feature a conversation led by James Coats and guests Romaine Washington and bridgette bianca, poets and educators. They will delve into the impact of AAVE on writing and its broader influence on mainstream culture. The event is free and open to the public.

Continuing the exploration of AAVE, on Sunday, February 25, from 2:00-4:00 PM PT, James Coats will lead a writing workshop called "Remaking Language: AAVE's Influence on Culture Through Writing." This workshop educates participants about AAVE, its history, and its contemporary significance. It aims to encourage writers, especially BIPOC writers, to embrace the language of their experiences and cultural authenticity, focusing on elements such as colloquialism, dialect, and vernacular. The workshop will be held online, free of charge.

Additionally, starting on Sunday, February 11, at the Culver Center, BIPOC teenagers aged 14-18 are invited to participate in "Dark Matter," a three-part writing workshop led by Lydia F. Theon Ware i. This workshop draws inspiration from the exhibition "The Impact of Images: Mamie Till's Courage from Tragedy," running through March 30, 2024, at the Culver Center. The exhibition features a powerful collection of photographs, including those by Black photojournalists, and pays tribute to the legacy of Mamie Till, whose courageous decision to share the story of her son, Emmett Till, played a pivotal role in the Civil Rights Movement. The workshop aims to inspire the writing, reflection, and insight of a new generation. Participation is free for BIPOC teens aged 14-18, with parental approval. While this is an in-person workshop, advance registration is required at

James Coats, an author, poet, and educator born in Los Angeles and raised in the Inland Empire, spearheads these enlightening initiatives. His commitment to the arts as a catalyst for positive change is evident through projects like "Be The Change: Social Justice Writing Workshop" and his recent poetry collection, "Midnight & Mad Dreams."

Romaine Washington, M. Ed., editor of "These Black Bodies Are... A Blacklandia Anthology" and author of "Purgatory Has an Address" and "Sirens in Her Belly," brings her wealth of experience to these discussions. Her work underscores the importance of social justice education, and she has developed a free social justice curriculum for educators.

bridgette bianca, a poet and professor from South Central Los Angeles, rounds out the panel of experts. Her dedication to serving marginalized communities is evident in her writings and her involvement in literary events.

Workshop leader Lydia F. Theon Ware i, author of "63 Days to Change Your Ways" and contributor to MUSE, the Riverside City College literary magazine, contributes her expertise to the "Dark Matter" workshop.

These initiatives receive support from the City of Riverside and the California Arts Council, demonstrating their commitment to fostering cultural enrichment.