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'Free admission and free speech': Actor Roger Smith schools on black history

By Hayley Fox
Published: Wednesday, February 29, 2012, at 04:22PM
Lili Bernard

Roger Guenveur Smith performing his "Christopher Columbus 1992" piece.

What more appropriate way to celebrate the last day of Black History month, than with an improvising, record-playing Roger Gueneveur Smith at The Last Bookstore.

Smith appeared in "Malcolm X," "Do the Right Thing" and "The Huey P Newton Story". You also may have caught him performing in his recent one-many play, "Juan and John."

Tonight at 8 p.m. Smith will be doing a new work called "The End of Black History Month"- a one-time only performance that's "inspired by the archives of The Last Bookstore" and includes excerpts from books and records, and group discussion.

"Free admission and free speech," Smith declared about the event.

This year's Black History Month is book-ended by two notable deaths, Smith noted. Legendary producer and host of Soul Train, Don Cornelius, died on Feb. 1; and today, Davy Jones of The Monkees, was pronounced dead at 66.

Although a pearly white pop star seems to be about the farthest thing from African-American history, the Monkees' late producer Bert Schneider was a close friend of the Black Panther leader Huey P. Newton, Smith explained -- and Schneider funneled some of the band's TV profits into the Black Panther movement.

All this, and more about the "history of black history month" is what Smith plans on discussing this evening, he said Wednesday.

Black History month isn't a commercial holiday - it wasn't created by Macy's, Sears or Target, Smith said.

"It wasn't something given to black people, but something we established for ourselves," he added.

The commemorative month was founded by an African-American scholar in 1926 and originally, only lasted a week. It was established to coincide with the birthdays of "the great emancipator" Abraham Lincoln and the historical abolitionist, Frederick Douglass.

Smith said that this year's Black History Month was especially notable, because it's a leap year -- and that means 24 extra hours to celebrate African-American achievement.

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