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McLean Community Center to host Ben’s Chili Bowl founder for Black History Month panel

The McLean Community Center will mark Black History Month in 2022 with a panel on the film “Traveling While Black” (courtesy MCC)

The McLean Community Center has some notable names lined up for an upcoming panel to celebrate Black History Month, which has been recognized every February since 1976.

Announced in a news release yesterday (Thursday), MCC’s panel discussion on Feb. 4 will tie into its “Traveling While Black” virtual reality exhibit that has been available to visitors at the 1234 Ingleside Avenue facility since Dec. 15.

Open until Feb. 12, the film explores how both racism and the past 60 years of civil rights activism have shaped African American communities through a conversation in the D.C. restaurant Ben’s Chili Bowl.

The “Talk Back, Look Forward” panel will feature several key figures from the movie:

  • Director Roger Ross Williams, who became the first Black director to win an Academy Award in 2010 with the short film “Music by Prudence”
  • Ben’s Chili Bowl founder and owner Virginia Ali
  • Civil rights activist Courtland Cox, who helped organize student protests in D.C. during the 1960s
  • Rev. Dr. Sandra Butler-Truesdale, a D.C. music historian and minister
  • Tamir Rice Foundation founder and CEO Samaria Rice, whose son was killed by Cleveland police in 2014

Moderated by interactive media marketer Joshua Henry Jenkins, the discussion will begin at 7:30 p.m. and include boxed meals from Ben’s Chili Bowl that participants can pick up starting at 6:30 p.m.

“Ben’s Chili Bowl has modeled what it means to be a community center by being a leader in creating a safe space for the African American community,” MCC Executive Director Daniel Singh said in a statement. “We are honored to have legendary civil rights leaders such as Mrs. Ali, Mr. Cox, and Ms. Rice join us, with the artistic vision of Mr. Williams connecting all of them.”

MCC says Williams and Rice will be participating remotely.

Admission is free for all, but advance registration is required, and the number of patrons will be limited to encourage social distancing and prevent crowding due to COVID-19.

As a Fairfax County government facility, MCC requires face masks for all visitors and staff. Hand-sanitizing stations have also been set up throughout the building.

MCC spokesperson Sabrina Anwah notes that the organization decided to go with boxed meals for this event so that participants can “carry them to locations throughout the building or take them home.”

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