Black history highlighted in new film festival | Entertainment

You might think that a Black History Month celebration hosted by the Kern County Library would focus on books.

While there are plenty of books involved in the activities held this month at county libraries, the first Black History Film Festival is focused on the big screen.

Lynne Kemmer, Community and Workforce Librarian, said the first-ever festival started with a smaller goal.

“It (the festival) was born out of our desire to highlight black history in the local history hall for Black History Month. … I had been asked to create programming in the hall of local history from the Beale Memorial Library,” she said. “I was thinking about what to do here and found these films about black churches, which I had found through our subscription to ‘POV’ and PBS.”

Kemmer began lining up speakers to accompany screenings of these documentary films from “POV” (short for Point of View), the longest-running TV showcase for independent nonfiction films that debuts annually on PBS. Then she wondered if the Beale would like to host screenings in its largest auditorium.

When she offered more showings, “Beale and the rest of the Libraries jumped on board.”

At least the libraries that have film licenses, which allow them to screen films for the public.

All five branches are able to show the films under a one-time educational use allowance.

“We’re just thrilled to deliver truly in-depth, professionally-made films with uplifting and inspiring stories that we think members of the community would benefit from experiencing.”

In addition to documentaries, there will be screenings of films for children. Based on copyright issues, libraries cannot publicize events in the same way. Kemmer therefore urged the public to check branch Facebook pages for the latest announcements.

Kemmer said that even at the start of the festival, she was reaching out to black churches and community members to find ways to improve programming at the local Beale History Hall. And other chapters are also pledging to expand their activities for Black History Month.

“Each branch has crafts, exhibits and story times celebrating black history. Some of the branches design their own flyers and do additional things in conjunction with their screenings.”

In addition to films and activities, the festival is also another way to show the community all that the library system has to offer.

“We want to connect people to library resources, things to check out in libraries and online.”

Film programming

All screenings are free to the public and no registration is required to attend. Visit for more information.

Beale Memorial Library

701 Truxtun Ave, 661-868-0701

February 17: “The Black Church: This Is Our Story, This Is Our Song,” Part I, 3 p.m. The first installment of the film exploring the 400-year-old history of the black church in America, including the changing nature of places of worship, and the men and women who guided them from the pulpit, chancel and pews of the church. Also includes a special presentation by Stefan Lambert, president and former secretary of the African American Film Association.

February 24: “The Black Church: This Is Our Story, This Is Our Song,” Part II, at 3 p.m. The film’s conclusion with a special presentation from Grandma Whoople, aka retired educator Katherine Jordan, on the History of Kern County Black Churches and Songs.

February 2: “Building Atlanta: The Story of Herman Russell” at 3 p.m. The film charts Russell’s rise from a shoe-shine business to running one of the largest black-owned construction companies in the United States.

February 9: “Ella Fitzgerald: Just One of Those Things” at 3 p.m. Discover the extraordinary artist’s six-decade journey.

February 16: “Underground Railroad: The William Still Story” at 3 p.m. The film depicts the courageous story of Still, a humble Philadelphia employee who risked his life guiding fugitive slaves to freedom in the years leading up to the Civil War.

February 23: “A Ballerina’s Tale” at 3 p.m. Go behind the scenes of the career of Misty Copeland, the first African-American named principal dancer of the prestigious American Ballet Theatre.

Southwest Library Branch

8301 Ming Ave, 661-664-7716

Thusday: “Jackie Robinson Story” at 4 p.m. Follow the humble origins of Jack Roosevelt Robinson, who crossed baseball’s color line and became one of America’s most beloved men.

February 10: “Driving While Black: Race, Space & Mobility in America” ​​at 4 p.m. The film traces the new freedom and the dangers for African Americans posed by the advent of the car.

February 16: “The Central Park Five” at 4 p.m. The story of five teenagers wrongfully convicted in the 1989 Central Park joggers case.

February 23: “Muhammad Ali – Round One The Greatest” at 4 p.m. Watch Cassius Clay’s rise from boastful amateur boxer to heavyweight title contender.

Branch of the Kern River Valley Library

7054, boul. from Lake Isabella. at Lake Isabella, 760-549-2083

February 23-24: “Jackie Robinson Story – Part I” at 3:30 p.m. February 23 followed by the conclusion at 3:30 p.m. February 24

Branch of the Frazier Park Library

3732 Park Drive at Frazier Park, 661-245-1267

February 15 and 22: “Hollywood Architect: The Paul R. Williams Story”, both screenings at 5 p.m.

February 17: “I’m Not Your Negro” at 4 p.m. Filmmaker Raoul Peck’s vision of James Baldwin’s unfinished novel “Remember This House.” offering a “radical and updated examination of race in America”, using Baldwin’s original words and archival documents.

Ridgecrest Library Branch

131 E. Las Flores Ave in Ridgecrest, 760-384-5870

February 22: “Hollywood Architect: The Paul R. Williams Story” at 3:30 p.m.

February 28: “Ella Fitzgerald: Just One of Those Things” at 3:30 p.m.

Stefani Dias can be reached at 661-395-7488. Follow her on Twitter at @realstefanidias.