Students reflect on history month

by Douglas Rojas

As Black History Month drew to a close Friday, students of all colors danced, sang and joked hand-in-hand while novelist Arthur Flowers played the harmonica and recited his work in the Coffman Memorial Union fireplace lounge.
The event, sponsored by the Africana Student Cultural Center, showed that planners of the month’s events succeeded in their primary goal — uniting students of all colors at the University in the quest to understand the roots of African-American culture.
“(The Africana History Month) addressed a wide variety of issues,” said Tseganesh Selameab, a third-year student studying microbiology. “It was not only a celebration but also educational and it was really fun.”
During the month-long celebration sponsored by the center, speeches and roundtable discussions addressed issues from political prisoners in the United States and Ethiopia to the African-American community at the University.
The celebration also included creative expressions of the African-American community exhibited in open-reading sessions, performances, a vendors fair with handcraft work from several countries in Africa and lots of music and food.
“I feel that we take Black History Month and make it our own,” said Camara Refined Earth, president of the center and a graduate student in education.
This year’s celebration exceeded the center’s goal of having one event every week, Refined Earth said. This year had at least two events per week in addition to a series of co-sponsored events with other organizations such as the Saint Paul Student Center and the African-American Learning Resource Center.
“It helped us, the support that we got from other cultural centers,” said Santanya Cofield, co-chairperson of the Africana center and main organizer of the month’s activities. “It was not only African-American students but people from all races and colors and that was pretty good,” she said.
The center used Black History Month as a way to welcome new students to the University and incorporate them in the community.
It was a good opportunity to get all African-Americans together, said Doreese Newton, a third-year student studying child psychology. As a transfer student who didn’t know many people at the University, the events gave her the chance to meet other students.”I felt very welcome,” she said.
In the last year, the Africana History Month lacked well-planned events and participation from the University community, said Refined Earth. For example, she said, in 1995 the center had just two events for the Black History Month.
“It was a jumping-off point because Africana has had so much trouble in the past few years,” Refined Earth said. “We really brought it back this year.”
She also remembers the opening dinner of the month’s events as an exciting moment.
“This was our first planning and we were all really worried about ‘Are people gonna come? Is it gonna be nice?'” she said.
The center planned a motivational speaker and storytellers for the kick-off event. Refined Earth said she and other people at the center were nervous about how it would turn out, but were pleasantly surprised.
“But it turned out to be so nice. It was a way to let us know that we were on the right track. At the end we have people coming to us saying ‘Thank you for doing this,'” Refined Earth said.