Black History Month 2024: The Obsidian Scholars Poetry Jam

By Joanne A Calitri   |   February 20, 2024
Leaders of the Poetry Jam: Darrell McNeill and Sally Foxen-McNeill, Tayllor and Ademola Oyewole-Davis, Audrey Gamble, and Connie Alexander (photo by Joanne A Calitri)

Black History Month is dedicated to African Americans and the Arts. In Week Two we give it up for the young Obsidian Scholars at the Gateway Educational Services Goleta, who presented their original poetry in fond memory of Santa Barbara poet laureate, activist, and local institution Sojourner Kincaid Rolle. The event was held at Soul Bites Restaurant on Saturday, February 10. 

Gateway’s Founders and Directors Connie Alexander and Audrey Gamble presented the program in conjunction with Santa Barbara Black Culture House’s Founders Darrell McNeill and Sally Foxen-McNeill.

The Gateway Educational Services has been serving the Goleta area for 15 years, providing a unique learning experience helping students to succeed academically utilizing a one-to-one, assessment-based tutoring pedagogy. Alexander explained further, “The Obsidian Scholars, established in the fall of 2022, includes Black/African American students in grades 4-7. The purpose of Obsidian Scholars is to provide leadership development and cultural experiences for Black students. Our program facilitators include Tayllor Johnson, Ademola Oyewole-Davis,and Demetria Jones. Obsidian Scholars is a safe and joyful space for Black Youth, and we meet monthly. Black Youth need more opportunities to gather and be mentored by Black community leaders. On August 17, we will host a day-long conference for Black students from Santa Maria, Lompoc, and Santa Barbara at SBCC. It will be our second annual Black Youth Leadership Summit.”

In talking about the importance of Black Art, Culture and History, McNeill shared, “Black/African history, culture, and art is intrinsic to the history, culture, and art of the entire globe. Our creative contributions are proven as foundational to every artistic advancement in modern society: music, theater, dance, literature, visual arts, film, photography, video, fashion and other disciplines. We embrace the importance and opportunities provided by Black History Month, but we see it as a launchpad to a larger discourse on the full range and diversity of our creativity and intellect throughout the year.”

The students read their poems and performed on African drums. Ademola Oyewole-Davis read his poems and spoke. His first poem, “Worth,” he notes that at Cate School’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day this year, “I’m worth making this my best life.” He concluded the program by reciting another poem, with the students filling in the last word of the phrases of the poem and playing drums in synch with it. Rounding out the intros and outros to the program was DJ Old School (Kevin Miller). 

Not to miss are Black Culture House upcoming events:

February 17: Darrell McNeill presents his book Isley Bros. 3+3 in conversation with Aaron Jones

February 18 and 24: Live music

February 25: Robey Theatre Co. reading of Richard Wesley’s The Talented Tenth

Santa Barbara Black Culture House is sponsored by the Black Rock Coalition and made possible by a Towbes Fund for The Performing Arts grant through The Santa Barbara Foundation. 

Facebook: @BlackCultureHouse


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