As February draws to a close, so does Black History Month. Black History Month is an annual celebration of achievements by black Americans and the impact they have had on U.S. history and culture. It also coincides with the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln.
Several groups at SLU have been celebrating Black History Month with various events and projects in the past few weeks. Carefree Black Girls has been decorating a board in the student center with a new picture and short bio of a different powerful woman of color each day. Some of the featured women include Ibtihaj Muhammad, a fencer who is the first Muslim American woman to compete in the Olympics wearing a hijab; Angela Davis, an activist, scholar, author, and prominent player in the Civil Rights Movement; and Audre Lorde, a feminist poet and Civil Rights activist. Davis will also be visiting St. Lawrence later this spring.
In addition, the Black Student Union has been organizing a variety of events on campus for SLU students. On February 1, BSU collaborated with Dining Services to host a Black History Month theme dinner at Dana. Students were encouraged to dress as their favorite character from ’90s black TV shows such as The Cosby Show or Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Some of the food offerings included fried chicken, collard greens, and fried okra.
This coming weekend will be filled with events open to the entire campus. Tonight at 6 p.m., there will be a how-to step dance workshop with the Players Club Step Team from Brooklyn in Griffiths 40. At 8 p.m., there will be a concert in the Winston Room showcasing black artists from Motown Records and Cadillac Records. The Laurentian Singers, the Sinners, the Saints, the Upbeats, and SLU Funk will all be performing. In addition, there will be a reggae band, the Brown Rice Family, performing at Java at 10 p.m. on Saturday. There will also be a workshop with the band at 5 p.m. earlier that day, also in Griffiths 40.
Wezi Bota ’19, the president of BSU, expressed excitement about the turnout at the Dana theme dinner and about the upcoming performances this weekend. She hopes that these events will draw a greater sampling of the student body. She points out that for many of the events hosted by BSU and other minority groups on campus, “It’s the same people going to the same things, and it’s the people that don’t understand who are, for lack of a better word, ignorant who need to come.”
The SLU administration has recently been working to improve diversity and representation on campus, in part through the hiring of Associate Dean for Diversity and Inclusion Kimberly Flint-Hamilton this semester. However, several students have expressed surprise that there was nobody in this position until this semester. Additionally, Bota ’19 notes that there have been some important discussions on campus, she hopes to see more concrete action happen on campus: “Talking is great, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard anybody say, ‘I feel more included because of talking.’”
The events this weekend are open to all members of the campus and everyone is encouraged to attend. As Bota points out, there are many clubs for minority groups on campus and it is important for people to come to their events even if they don’t identify as a member of that particular group. “It’s still important to be an ally and to show up and show support for the cause,” she says.