Our college students return year-after-year to participate in the celebration. From top to bottom: Elijah, Isaiah and Gabe as RUN DMC in the WIACM 2017 and Donovan "I Rise" WIACM 2016
Who I Am Celebrating Me is a community of youth and adult artists exploring history through the arts. From soul-encompassing singing and dancing to heartfelt poetry and prose, the production highlights a montage of African-American figures and movements of past and present. Formed in 2007 by Shalanda Sims in response to the lack of celebratory events in Portland during Black History month, Who I Am Celebrating Me dared to fill a void. Not only were there little to no events at the time but the topic was not widely discussed in schools. In an effort to educate youth, show them something they could be proud of and celebrate all year long, educators, business owners, youth, adults, senior citizens, artists, community members...gathered to sing songs, recite poetry, and share oral history. To date, through partnerships with schools, businesses and other community organizations, Who I Am Celebrating Me has helped educate thousands of audience members about the rich history and contributions of African-Americans.
Based on a community survey in the greater Portland metropolitan area, 9 out of 10 people do not know how Black History Month came into existence or the importance of it. They don't know the American who founded Negro History Week. Most people haven't heard of any African-American pioneers. However, the majority knows Black History Month is celebrated in February and Dr. Martin Luther King Junior was a man who fought for freedom.
Information from research and observation between 2000-2015 show many Oregon/Washington schools outside urban communities have special programs and assemblies honoring Hispanic, Asian heritage and other cultures but do not have assemblies or special programs celebrating Black History and the event is not widely discussed during the school year or the month of February.
Beyond Black History Month, the goal is to use art as a vehicle to educate communities of all races about the unsung heroes of African-American culture, their hardships, triumphs, and ability to overcome hundreds of years of oppression.
Who I Am; Celebrating Me aspires to promote unity and appreciation of all ethnic groups by first appreciating our own and to encourage students and educators to be the change and use their creative voice to accomplish goals in the classroom, at home and in their community.
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave, I am the dream and the hope of the slave. I rise I rise I rise.
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