A series of events in the city will help to recognize in Black History Month, the celebration of the African-American community's historic figures. Kicking off the celebration of culture and heritage, New Jersey City University held a program Tuesday evening to kick off the "Tellin' Our Story: Living Our Truths" black history series. Feminist scholar, teacher, poet and writer Abena Busia delivered the event's keynote speech. The black leader said that every month should be looked upon as a time to pay respect to the important figures in African-American history. She noted that the month had evolved from just a weeklong celebration. "You never know," Busia joked. "We may get a year or a decade out of it." Before Busia, an associate professor at Rutgers University, was introduced, a student talked about tracing his own African-American roots back in time. "Home to me," the student said, "is Georgia. That's as far back as I can go with my family roots. If I went back to Africa, I wouldn't know where to go." Busia said that predicament is something with which many young African-Americans are familiar. Busia had been born in Ghana, where her father was the Prime Minister. But a military coup d'etat forced the family into exile. Busia said that her life on the run helped to shape the poetry that she included in a published anthology, "Beyond Survival: Testimonies of Exile." At the ceremony, Busia read a series of her poems from the book and talked about her experiences. "It is always important to bear witness," Busia said before an audience of 50 NJCU faculty and students. "If we do not bear witness, people will forget." NJCU will sponsor several more campus programs to help honor Black History Month. Gil Noble, a visiting specialist at the university who is managing editor, executive producer and host of WABC-TV's public affairs series "Like It Is," will lead a film discussion on Monday, Feb. 7. Dr. James Stewart, a professor of labor studies and industrial relations and African and African-American studies at Penn State University, will lead an NJCU panel discussing "Urban Music: Hip-Hop as a Social Movement" on Feb. 9. On Wednesday, Feb. 16, an opening reception for "Images of Haiti: Artworks from the Collections of Audreon Bratton and New Jersey City University" will be held in the school's Lemmerman Gallery. Audreon Bratton said of her collection last week, "There are few countries where the visual arts are tightly woven through the fabric of life as in Haiti, the world's first black republic and the Western Hemisphere's second independent nation." The NJCU series will conclude on Feb. 29 with "Celebrating Our Children," the theme of the Black History Month closing ceremonies, to be held in the North Lounge of the Student Union. While the city's college students recognize Black History Month, the local government raised the green, black and red African-American flag in front of City Hall on Wednesday last week. "It is a great honor for me to participate in this ceremony," Mayor Bret Schundler said in a recent statement. "It gives me the opportunity to express our community's deep gratitude for the thousands of African-Americans over the many generations who have made major contributions toward the growth of Jersey City. We have benefited greatly from their rich heritage and community spirit." The events on the city's official Black History Month calendar include a Rotunda Gallery reception featuring landscape photographs by John Howell on Feb. 10, in addition to a host of other programs. There will be a Martin Luther King Oratory Contest for grades 3-5 and grades 6-8 in the public schools on Monday, Feb. 14 with the finals held on Feb. 28. Schundler will present awards in both grade fields. "The Year of the Man," presented by the African American Association, will be followed by a Black History Month dinner on Friday, Feb. 25 at City Hall. Invited guests include County Executive Robert Janiszewski, members of the municipal council, and representatives of the city's black organizations, including Willie Flood, Frances Thompson, William Braker and Omar Barbour.