What’s so special about Black History month?

East Dallas resident Mack Hazley says black Americans lost much of their history and culture when early Western colonists in Africa and other island nations sold entire tribes as slaves.

“That’s a hard experience for any individual – or culture – to survive,” says Hazley, who works with disturbed adolescents at the Psychiatric Crisis Center of Dallas County Mental Health and Retardation.

Hazley has two children – Ade, 14, and Osha, 11 – and he likes the “ethnic and generational mix” in East Dallas, as well as the broad range of housing costs that make those rich variations possible.

“Black History Month helps black people to some extent focus on those events in history, both ancient and in recent times, they can take pride in. The longtime ignorance of our heritage contributes to the sense of denial of the self many black people still experience.

“A good example of this is black-on-black crime. All people need to feel connected to something – a community with a history, a family, a gang.”

Programs on black music, art and other achievements make a difference, Hazley says, but often black people are too caught up in “just surviving economically” to attend such events.

“Cultural programs are no cure-all. You can have a grand play or consciousness-raising workshop going on next door, but the people standing in line to hear their names called so they can get a job, get food stamps, get the gas turned on – their consciousness is on survival.”

But knowledge of their roots is crucial to healthy development of black children, Hazley says.

“When kids grow up with a sense of how they got where they are in space and time, it makes a big difference in their self-esteem,” he says.

The following activities celebrating Black History Month are scheduled in East Dallas or Lakewood and are easily accessible to neighborhood residents:

Feb. 1-March 7 – “African Drum & Dance Workshop”, for children six and older, Central YWCA, 4621 Ross (827-5600). The six-week course meets at noon Saturdays; taught by Omari African Drum & Dance Co. instructors. Fee is undecided.

Feb. 8 – “Multi-Generational Cultural Appreciation Workshop”, presented by the Greater Dallas Community Relations Committee, at the Central YWCA, 4621 Ross (827-5600) from 9 a.m.-noon. Includes racial sensitivity exercises, a video presentation and discussion. There is no cost to attend.

Feb. 9 – “Africa Explores: 20th Century Art”, and exhibit examining African art history and the social and political forces shaping art, runs through March 5 in the Chilton Gallery, Dallas Museum of Art, 1717 N. Harwood (922-1200). Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for seniors and $1 for children under 12.

Feb. 14 – “Most Valuable Player”, at Dallas Children’s Theater at the Crescent Theater, 2215 Cedar Springs (978-0110), tells the story of baseball great Jackie Robinson’s career. The show runs weekends through March 8; tickets are $6 to $11.

Feb. 22 – “The Spirit of the Drum” combines the talents of Dallas Symphony Percussionists with local African drumming specialists, 3 p.m. in the auditorium of the Dallas Museum of Art, 1717 N. Harwood (922-1200). The performance is free.

Feb. 28-29 – Dallas Black Dance Theatre presents three spiritual dances to music provided by the 100-voice male chorus of the Hamilton Park Baptist Church at the Majestic Theatre, 1925 Elm (827-2326). Performances at 8:15 p.m. Feb. 28, and 2 p.m. and 8:15 p.m. Feb. 29. Tickets are $5 to $15.