WATCH: ‘Perceptions of Color’ panelists discuss winter holidays from Black perspective – Hot Springs Sentinel

Posted By on December 22, 2021

The Garland County Library's "Perceptions of Color" series will be livestreamed from 6 to 7 p.m. today, with panelists discussing the winter holidays of Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa from a Black perspective.

Marsalis Weatherspoon, president of Hot Springs Branch No. 6013 of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, will lead the discussion, sharing his perspective on Christmas, before veteran journalist and filmmaker Robin Washington speaks on Hanukkah, followed by Hot Springs native Cicely Hicks speaking on Kwanzaa.

Weatherspoon, a local educator, musician, and speaker, started the "Perceptions of Color" monthly series in September, in which various facets of the African American experience are celebrated.

"There's so much that you can discuss when it comes to the Black experience in America -- particularly, where we are in the South," he said. "And so we just said, 'Let's make this a monthly thing and each month explore a different topic.' So that's where we started."

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The series kicked off in September with the heritage of Black gospel music, before covering the Black horror film genre in October, and healthy eating options in November.

"Each month we try to find something new and interesting to explore, and, like I said, it'll probably never end because there's always something to look at," he said.

Weatherspoon said tonight's subject of the holidays from a Black perspective keeps within the mission of the series by showing that Black people are "not a monolith," but have a diverse array of ideas, opinions and traditions.

"There are Blacks, believe it or not, who are Jewish that celebrate Hanukkah," he said. "There are Blacks that celebrate Kwanzaa. And, myself -- being a minister -- we, of course, celebrate Christianity. But there are certain things that Black people do in regards to Christmas. So just showing the different aspects of celebrations and traditions from a Black perspective -- I'm excited about it."

The panelists will take real-time questions and comments from viewers through the chat feature from both Facebook Live (facebook.com/garlandcountylibrary) and YouTube (youtube.com/garlandcolibrary). The program is free, with no registration required. A recording will also be available following the event.

Growing up in Chicago, Washington was born into a family of Black and Jewish civil rights activists, participating in protests and sit-ins from an early age. He is now editor-at-large at "The Forward," a national newspaper, which reports on politics, arts and culture for a Jewish audience.

"(He's) a Black practicing Jew and he has been on NPR (National Public Radio) and various media outlets, just shedding light on what it is to be a Jew of color in America," he said. "He's been on panels, he's written essays on the subject matter, and so he's going to be very interesting."

Hicks, a Hot Springs native and graduate of Lakeside High School, received her Bachelor of Science in Child & Family Studies from Baylor University. With a background in case management, social services and mental health support, she has helped children and families in Arkansas, Texas and California. She will share her perspectives on Kwanzaa.

"Her mother went to historic Langston High School, a historically Black school here in town," he said. "They are practitioners of Kwanzaa (the annual celebration of African American culture held from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1), and I've never celebrated Kwanzaa, so it's going to be interesting to hear her take, that she, you know, practices with her mother and she's carrying on that tradition with her children and family."

Weatherspoon said in keeping with the "Perceptions of Color" theme, he wanted to show there's "more to Blackness" than what one might see in the media, and there are sometimes preconceived notions about being Black in America, which was explored in their October series.

"A lot of the movies that you see in Hollywood, they portray the Black experience but it's always rooted in our trauma, you know. Whether it's slavery or Jim Crow," he said. "We have many more facets than just our traumas. You know, we fall in love, we celebrate, we have fun, we laugh, we live, so -- there's so much more to Blackness than our historical traumas and we really need to shed a light on that.

"In particular, our faith. You know, that's very fundamental to who we are as a people."

In today's society, communication, he said, is key to bringing people closer and removing boundaries. He noted that even people within the Black community itself disagree and have varying opinions on matters, but there is not enough understanding of people.

"I think before you prejudge somebody, you know, talk to them and get an idea of who they are instead of just believing everything that you see, because you never judge a book by its cover. And that's what I would say is the mission of the Perceptions of Color is to just delve into who we are," he said.

"And with that, I'm finding out more of who I am through this project. So I'm just grateful to the Garland County Library for this opportunity. We developed a strategic partnership with the NAACP Hot Springs branch and we're just looking forward to continuing to serve this community through the Garland County Library and other avenues."

For more information about NAACP Hot Springs, visit its website at http://www.naacphs6013.org or its Facebook page at NAACP Hot Springs No. 6013.

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WATCH: 'Perceptions of Color' panelists discuss winter holidays from Black perspective - Hot Springs Sentinel

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