Events focus onblack history

Emily Babcock

Homework, meetings and social lunches were all put aside Friday at the Africana Student Cultural Center. Instead, leaders from community groups took over the room to show students how to get involved beyond the campus realms.
The center hosted a civic and community groups exploration as part of its Black History Month celebration. This year’s celebration, which happens every February, started at the Africana center on Jan. 30 with an opening dinner.
Event volunteers offered students a chance to meet with community groups and an opportunity to become active in the groups.
“I think it is important that the black student population get involved with the younger black students,” said Bobby Lay, a graduate student in Youth Development and Leadership who represented one of several service programs at the center Friday.
Lay works as a recruiter to share the center’s resources so that University students can make a connection between community and campus. He said it’s also important for area youth to see other black students who are attending college.
“There’s no reason that the black students couldn’t be involved if they had the resources and information,” Lay said.
Although Friday’s community fair was scheduled as part of the Black History Month events, the themes of the events extend past February.
Winston McDowell, visiting assistant professor in the Department of Afro-American and African Studies, said every month is black history month for him. He said he understands the month’s significance and recognizes that it brings certain speakers and issues into focus that might be ignored.
“But why should they be ignored? Why should they confine it to a month?” McDowell asked.
“If kids sign up for the volunteering, it wouldn’t just be for this month, it is something positive that they are going to do for good,” said Tanaegh Holder, a College of Human Ecology freshman.
Besides stressing community activeness, themes for other University events during the month are meant to be educational and political. Some of the month’s events will cover not only a historical theme, but extend to a cultural theme.
“We wanted to create a full plate of activities,” said Hardy Jackson, a Carlson School of Management junior and chairman of the Africana center’s social-political organizing committee.
Jackson added that events are also geared to inform students about black heritage.
“They are for the entire student body,” Jackson said. “Black history is not just black history or Afro-American, it is American history. There is a benefit for everyone through the event that we put on.”
Political themes for events have transformed into student-run discussion sessions this year. Instead of inviting speakers to lecture about political issues, community leaders will facilitate discussions between students. Jackson said these soapbox sessions will allow students of different backgrounds to debate on topics, such as campus racism and oppression.
“Having so many members, they have grown up with different agendas,” said Jackson. “Soapbox sessions give a chance to speak about what is on their minds and get feedback from other students and professionals.”
Each Wednesday during the month, the center will sponsor an educational movie. Among the films scheduled are documentaries about Muhammad Ali and the Black Panthers.
Roberto De Freitas, advisor to the Africana center and counselor at the African American Learning Resource Center, said a film on the Harlem renaissance will be explored in a different manner this year. Pioneering women of the period and a poetry reading are the focus of the topic.
Some of the month’s events are scheduled into the month of March, but Jackson reiterated that this is a time of conscience raising that extends throughout the year for many.
“It’s not about race. It’s pure history,” said Reuben Moore, a General College freshman. “It should be celebrated in all of our world history books.”