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The kickoff to Black History Month took place Saturday at the Mansfield Richland County Public Library.

MANSFIELD -- The Mansfield Richland County Public Library had its annual Black History Celebration on Saturday.

Tiffany Mitchell, diversity and inclusion coordinator at the Ohio State University’s Mansfield campus, opened the event by reminding the audience of the many reasons it's important to remember and celebrate black history.

“Celebrating black history gives us the opportunity to honor the historic leaders of the black community,” Mitchell said. “Celebrating black history allows us to be better stewards of the privileges that we have gained. (It) provides us with an opportunity to highlight black history and culture and it creates awareness for all people and reminds us that black history is our history.

“Black History Month is really just a reminder that this important part of our heritage belongs in the forefront of our consciousness 365 days a year.” 

This year's celebration featured performances from the junior company of the Thiossane West African Dance Institute in Columbus and local artists including spoken word poet A Pilgrim, jazz trio Kid Kulture and Jody Odom Jr. 

Larry Rawls, president of the MRCPL board of trustees and pastor of Mt. Sinai Baptist Church, smiled and nodded his head to the beat during Kid Kulture’s performance.

“The young group that's performing right now are off the hook,” Rawls said. “It's my first time hearing them. It’s good to see new talent.”

Rawls said he was pleased to see so many people enjoying themselves during the event. He added that Black History Month is important for all Americans to celebrate.

“It's important for upcoming generations to know about our history. Black and white, everyone should know what our contributions to the country are,” Rawls stated. “We're all Americans, but this is good for people to know about those parts of history that had been overlooked.”

During his performance, Odom sang some original songs as well as classic hits by African American artists including Michael Jackson, Prince, Stevie Wonder and Bruno Mars.

"It was great to see members of the community come together in unity!" said Odom. "It was even better singing numbers of great artists that are not only a product of black history but American history!"

The Black History Celebration has been a beloved library tradition for almost 30 years. According to MRCPL Director Chris May, the event was started by his predecessor, Joe Palmer.

“It was a no-brainer to continue on with this,” said May. “It's important to this community that we carry it on. There are other events similar throughout the community, but the library is open to all and I think people feel very comfortable coming in, seeing some entertainment and enjoying some good food, meeting with each other and sharing ideas. It's the perfect venue for this.”

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