February is Black History Month and this year it carries some added weight due to a very special anniversary: It’s been 50 years since Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 – a landmark moment in the struggle against discrimination and inequality.

We’re part of a group that’s organizing a year-long series of events to commemorate this special anniversary, which will not only look back at what the Civil Rights Act meant in the 1960’s, but also look ahead to see how we can continue the movement towards equity and justice in the face of continued resistance.

Along with the NAACP and nearly a dozen other organizations, our group has put together a website with a full listing of events. You can view the page now to see what’s planned already, but make sure to check back in the weeks ahead as we have many more events in the works.

With February being Black History Month, there’s an especially good selection of events to choose from right now. This week there are film screenings of Freedom Riders and Slavery by Another Name, followed later in the month by a pair of lectures and discussions. At the very end of the month, the ACLU of Maine will be co-hosting a short film festival along with the Portland Public Library’s Choose Civility Initiative. Starting on February 27, we’ll be showing four classic films from the 1960s in the span of three days. As we begin this year-long anniversary celebration, we thought it would be instructive to see how race and racism were being addressed at the time that the Civil Rights Act was passed. (Also, we really wanted to see some great films, like To Kill A Mockingbird, on the big screen!)

We’ll blog more about our film festival as the event grows nearer, but in the meantime we encourage you to honor Black History Month – whether that means attending one of the many events being hosted here in the Portland area or finding your own personal way to celebrate.

Want a great way to start? Check out this article and video featured last month in the Portland Press Herald. In addition to being the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, this year is also the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s only visit to Maine. In May of 1964, less than two months before the Civil Rights Act would be signed by President Lyndon Johnson, Dr. King visited the University of New England (then known as St. Francis College) to give a speech for the first time in Maine. It’s a great little story and a nice way to start off your celebration of Black History Month.