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Black heritage is conference focus

"Mission Possible: Preserving Our History, Our Health, Our Heroes, Our Legacy" is the theme of this week's 4th annual Conference on African and African-American History & American Diversity at McKinley High School. .

A number of events centered on African and African-American history are scheduled for Tuesday through Saturday at the school, 1500 Elmwood Ave. All events are free to students, teachers, administrators and parents throughout Western New York.

For students in grades 5 through 12, there will be an African-American Quiz Bowl each morning, Tuesday through Friday. Other daytime events include a read-in on Wednesday, college fair featuring representatives from historically black colleges and universities on Thursday, and Youth Heritage Day on Friday.

There are two family-oriented events Wednesday night: an African-American Film Festival and African-American History Pageant.

Friday night is the opening of the conference itself and will feature a reception, African marketplace and an exhibit of memorabilia.

Mattie Rhodes, Ph.D., will give the keynote address. A faculty member at the University at Buffalo's School of Nursing, she has taught at Erie County Medical Center and Niagara Community College, specializing in adult health and cardiovascular nursing.

Rhodes' research has been in health disparities in African-American populations. She is a past member of the advisory board of the American Heart Association and is working in partnership with the Western New York American Heart Association.

Also on Friday, there will be performances by Morley, a jazz singer from Jamaica, Queens, and Ernesto Villa-Lobos, a jarocho violinist and composer from Mexico.

Saturday's activities include an African marketplace, health and wellness screenings, a poetry slam and Soul Food Cook Off.

There also will be three sessions of workshops next Saturday morning, dealing with health and historical subjects. Registration is required.

Speakers and their topics include: Victoria Dent, African-American organ donors; the Rev. Gary Tydus, history of the black church; and Ernest Logan, history of African-Americans and unions in the United States.

Saturday afternoon, the winners of Black History Month-related contests will be announced.

e-mail: citydesk@buffnews.com

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