Ago? Ame. Harambee, which means “let us come together” in Swahili, is a special event held annually by the African American Cultural Center. This year the event was held on August 31, in the Washington Sankofa room at 5:30pm. A warm welcome was given by Toni Thorpe, coordinator of the African American Cultural Center, along with Kateria Poe, a senior majoring in Women and Gender Studies, and Darrian Collins, a senior majoring in Accounting. The Uninhibited Praise Gospel Choir blessed the environment by singing the negro national anthem, Lift Every Voice and Sing. After the gospel selection, the special guests of the night received recognition. These guests included Belinda Tate, director of Diggs Gallery at Winston Salem Sate University in Winston Salem, North Carolina and Kathleen Spicer, widow of Charles Searles. Afterwards, participants departed to the gallery where Charles Searles’s work was displayed. The gallery was filled with his use of warm colors and abstract art. His work ranges from acrylic on canvas, paper and wood. Searles also used wood, bronze and mixed media for his sculptures. Paintings were adorned with images of dancers, masks, and animals. When participants returned to the Sankofa room, Dr. Craig Brookins welcomed all new students and staff. He also introduced a service break trip to Egypt and encouraged everybody to attend, especially males. Elvin James, Communications major and President of the African American Student Advisory Council, discussed the purpose and goals of the organization and its officers. Freshman in Computer Science, Julian Tucker recognized the Black Alumni Society. Kateria Poe and Julian Tucker formally introduced the guest speakers for the night. Belinda Tate opened her discussion by emphasizing the importance of the evening and how rare it is. She then discussed the life of Charles Searles. Searles was born in Philidelphia, PA in 1937. He joined the armed forces in 1950, where he learned first hand the harshness of racism. He then returned to Philidelphia to pursue his passion for art at the University of Pennsylvania and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. He joined the nation of Islam and became known as Charles 23X. Searles also supported the Black Panther movement during the time that the organization came to offer services that were unavailable to the African American community at the time. His early art was known to sympathize with the poor. In 1972, a trip to African allowed him to “awake” and he then changed his art to show the beauty of the soul. This is especially shown his painting titled “Fila..”. Searles joined a drumming circle to ignite movement. This became the inspiration for the “Dancer…”. In 1978, Searles stopped painting canvas and expanded his work to creating sculptures that are characterized by their distinct colors, patterns, and curves. One special piece named “the Freedom Gate” that was too large but Tate described this phenomenal piece of art thoroughly.
Kathleen Spicer thanked everyone for coming out to support her Searles’s legacy. She then went on to describe Charles Searles as person who constantly moves and loved to play music such as jazz and world. She says that Searles was loved by many. He received a travel award that was supposed to be for travel to Europe but instead he went to Ghana. There he used his artistic creativity and made rings out of forks and spoons to sell to make extra money. Spicer mentioned how he was intrigued by the people he saw in Africa. Searles saw sculptures in the African natives and stated that “everybody was a king.” Africa’s movement, color, and beautiful people inspired him. His art is publicly displayed in Philidelphia, New York, and New Jersey. He thoroughly enjoyed making permanent public sculptures and his last piece was created in 2004, year he passed away. This sculpture is currently in a New Jersey train station. He had a total of 72 sketch books that he filled throughout his life starting all the way back in junior high school. His work was universal for sheer joy and positivity.
Uninhibited Praise Gospel Choir performed a song called “Marvelous” and the event was ended with the Harambee call. To do this call, everybody stood in a big circle (all hands linked) and seven times shouted “Harambee” while lifting their arms. The last Harambee was held for as long as it could. After the Harambee event, Spice stated that she thinks the university is amazing. She enjoyed the good mix in the crowd and received a lot of respect from the students. The students not only showed respect to their elders but to their peers and more importantly themselves. The environment was clean and beautiful. She is very impressed at the amount of youth that came to listen and learn more about Charles Searles.