Reflecting on Black History Month at AAR

Two Black women seated in chairs in a lecture room; one of them is speaking into a microphone
Filmmaker Daphne Di Cinto (right) and historian Olivette Otele speak at the interdisciplinary event “Black Europeans from Renaissance to Present Day,” held on February 13

The American Academy in Rome celebrated Black History Month this year with dedicated programming that surveyed historical presences and absences, and their enduring legacy in shaping the world we live in today. Organized by Johanne Affricot, the Academy’s recently appointed Curator-at-Large, the program presented three distinct events, in three different locations of the McKim, Mead & White Building, featuring a broad selection of guests, voices, discussions, formats, and collaborations.

Color photo of a Black man wearing a lavender puffer vest and standing in front of a microphone and a white wall
Stretch performing at the American Academy

The first, held on February 13, delved into the often-overlooked history of “Black Europeans from Renaissance to Present Day.” The rich tapestry of activities in our Lecture Room comprised a screening of Il Moro (2021), a short film directed by Daphne Di Cinto, as well as a captivating spoken-word performance and song by the rapper and poet Stretch. A Conversations/Conversazioni between Di Cinto and the renowned British scholar Olivette Otele, moderated by Affricot, followed. The speakers shed light on the importance of narratives that recognize the diversity of European history.

The second event of Black History Month, “Across the Atlantic,” took place on February 20 in the Cryptoporticus. It consisted of a lecture/installation by Jessica L. Harris (our 2024 Fellow in modern Italian studies), who showed a handful of film and television clips that addressed the representation of Black American women—including the iconic figures Lola Falana and Donyale Luna—in Italian entertainment in the 1960s and 1970s. The experience was a fascinating glimpse into an important aspect of Harris’s Rome Prize project, Black America and Italy: African American Women in Post-Fascist Italian Culture.

color photo of a Black woman standing in a orange-tinged cryptoporticus
Jessica L. Harris takes attendees “Across the Atlantic” in a lecture/installation in the Cryptoporticus

Finally, this time in the warmth of our Salone, Erica Hunt (2024 Fellow in literature) and the social-science researcher and activist Mackda Ghebremariam Tesfau’ explored the poetry of Fred Moten, as well as his influence and legacy, in “The Sounding Reticence.” This conversation, organized with NERO Editions and Short Theatre and held on February 29, doubled as the launch of the publishing house’s new book on Moten’s poetry, La sonora reticenza.

Color photo of two Black women sitting in chairs in a living room setting and talking to each other with microphones
The poet and 2024 Fellow Erica Hunt (left) explored the artistic and political significance of Fred Moten’s poetry with the activist and scholar Mackda Ghebremariam Tesfau’

Thank you to all who kindly joined and supported our Black History Month programming in February.

Press inquiries

Andrew Mitchell

Director of Communications

212-751-7200, ext. 342

a.mitchell [at] (a[dot]mitchell[at]aarome[dot]org)

Maddalena Bonicelli

Rome Press Officer

+39 335 6857707

m.bonicelli.ext [at] (m[dot]bonicelli[dot]ext[at]aarome[dot]org)