MASON CITY, Iowa - February is Black History Month, a time to explore the many contributions African Americans have made in U.S. history.
One of those is music.
From early instruments like the kalimba, to modern hip hop and R&B, people were tapping along to the beats showcased during a 'Behind the Beat' presentation at NIACC Thursday afternoon.
"Music has the ability to cross cultures and even language barriers."
Music major Lauren Bodtke says music history classes sometimes overlook the importance of other cultures.
"We don't talk about the history of music in other cultures too much in school. Everything seems brief."
While she knew about rock 'n' roll's roots in blues and jazz, as well as hip hop, soul and R&B, there were a couple of genres she was educated on.
"I had never heard of neo-soul or Afro Punk."
Leading the presentation was Sean Donaldson with the African American Museum of Iowa.
"I think sometimes the information we present is very new to people, and sometimes it's a nice review of days gone by. That allows people to have a conversation about something and learn a little bit in the process. It's very meaningful when it happens."
He says music can serve as a great tool to showcase a side of life not everyone may be familiar with, making it a perfect opportunity to ignite conversation and change.
"I really love using the music presentation as a way to do that, because as we talk about behind the beat and look at all of these forms of music, these are things that we have danced to. And if we can all dance to this music, why can't we dance together? And if we can dance together, then we're doing OK."
In addition, Donaldson lead a presentation on Juneteenth, the annual commemoration of the end of slavery in the U.S. The NIACC Diversity Committee hosted both presentations.