BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — The celebration of Black History Month is in full swing at the Kern County Library. All month, seats in the auditorium at Beale Memorial Library in Bakersfield have been filled during screenings of films that celebrate the lives, culture, and creativity of Black Americans.
This is the second year the Kern County Library has honored Black History Month with their film festival. Stefan Lambert, President of the African American Film Association, says he hopes people who watch these films take away a sense of pride and an understanding that Black history is American history.
"There's such a need for more Black history. Even on a national level, we don't really know how much influence African Americans had in cinema, in Hollywood, and for it to take place in a very conservative place where there's so many enthusiastic Black people, I mean, like… It's amazing," said Lambert. "They're really thirsty for something like this, so that just heightens the excitement."
Lambert spoke about the cultural significance of the film "Straight Outta Compton" before screening the film.
Community Outreach and Workforce Librarian Lynne Kemmer says this film festival helps make a difference in the community by showcasing the Black experience.
"Representation in the media is very important, so people feel their stories and experiences are being heard and seen," said Kemmer. "I think that representation in the media shows people that they're recognized and they're important."
The libraries across Kern County screen the films for free, as well as providing popcorn for the audience. Kemmer says the films help to address timely issues and spark important conversations.
"The Black community has made great contributions in film and art, and it's important to showcase all of the talents of people of color. The library wants to be a space to be able to showcase all of the creativity," said Kemmer.
Kemmer says she wants the library to be a safe space for all its visitors, and invites residents to partner with them to provide free programming that will entertain and educate community members.
Lambert says he hopes this festival will promote unity between people of different backgrounds.
"We've contributed to entertaining everybody. If I can see more unity in spite of the things that divide us, I'll feel like my living wasn't in vain," said Lambert.
THE FULL LIST OF BLACK HISTORY MONTH MOVIES AT KERN COUNTY LIBRARIES: