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SLO County libraries celebrate Black History Month with a series of diverse lectures and performances 

In honor of Black History Month, the SLO County Library system will be holding a series of varied and wide-ranging events. Not only will libraries across the Central Coast feature art, books, and bibliographies centered on the history and experience of African-Americans, they will also host lectures and performances from prominent African-Americans within the community.

On Feb. 7, local author Odell Lee will speak at both the Atascadero and Nipomo libraries about his recent memoir, The Formative Years of an African-American Spy. Lee was born in Louisiana to a large and dysfunctional family. At the age of 16, he dropped out of high school, joined the Navy, and traveled the world before returning to the U.S. to complete his high school degree and enroll as an undergraduate at UCLA. He eventually earned a graduate degree at the prestigious Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and L’institut d’Études Politiques in Paris. For the next decade or so, he worked in international business. Then, an incredible opportunity arose. Lee joined the C.I.A. as one of the organization’s first African-American agents. Now retired, Lee lives on the Central Coast and frequently lectures about his fascinating life story.

You can hear Odell Lee talk about his memoir at the Nipomo Library at 2 p.m. or the Atascadero Library at 10:30 a.m.

Throughout the month of February, the Atascadero an Nipomo libraries will also host local musician and artist Abbey Onikoyi. Raised in Lagos, Nigeria, Onikoyi immigrated to the United States while still young. For a while, he worked as a creative director in advertising before opening his own art center here in San Luis Obispo—Spirits of Africa Gallery.

Onikoyi will be holding a mask-making demo for all ages at the Nipomo Library on Feb. 7 at 2 p.m. and at the Atascadero Library on Feb. 19, at 3:30 p.m. To cap off a month of celebration, Onikoyi will be leading an African drum circle/sing-along at the Atascadero Library on Feb. 26, at 7:30 p.m.

In addition to these events, you can check out an interactive presentation, African-Americans in the Classical Performing Arts, from Opera San Luis Obispo’s artistic director Brian Asher Alhadeff at the SLO Library on Feb. 21, from 2 to 4 p.m. For more information and details, visit slolibrary.org.

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