The United States has recognized February as Black History Month since 1976. This year, AU’s Black Student Association and Cultural Resource Center planned a month packed with activities for the entire campus and community to get involved with.
CRC multicultural student assistant Faith Sayles believes the goals of celebrating Black History Month are to raise awareness, encourage people to take pride in their heritage and to bring people of all backgrounds together.
BSA council member Alana Moore describes the planning process as a bit of a “roller coaster.”
New leadership and high expectations from last year pushed this year’s BSA team to build upon the momentum from last year’s Black History Month events.
BSA’s skate night during Little Sibs weekend kicked off the month’s festivities.
“Skate night was a lot of fun,” said BSA member Darnisha Graves. “I didn’t skate, but to see the amount of people who came out with their little siblings at midnight was pretty cool. There was a lot of diversity. It wasn’t just black people coming to support black people. It was AU students coming out to support other AU students.”
The week of Feb. 12-16 were themed dress days.
Monday was “Motherland Monday” where students, faculty and staff were encouraged to focus on their different heritages by dressing in more traditional garb or choosing a traditional hairstyle based on their heritage.
Tuesday was titled “Jersey Tuesday.” On this day, many students opted to wear their favorite athletes’ jerseys.
Wednesday and Thursday were T-shirt awareness days where people were asked to wear T-shirts that supported different social problems.
Finally, Friday was a blackout day where all were encouraged to wear black clothing.
On Thursday, Feb. 15, BSA hosted the AU community at the Mounds Mall Theater for the premiere of “Black Panther.”
“I was really happy that we could include the ‘Black Panther’ movie within Black History Month,” said Moore. “The timing was perfect. I wanted this event to be something that would include everybody. I wanted to invite the community of Anderson and the entire AU student body.”
Shania Bishop attended the Thursday night premiere and described “Black Panther” as “amazing.”
“I came in with really high expectations and it definitely delivered,” Bishop said of the movie. “I think it provided multiple important messages, emphasizing feminism, race and humanitarianism. It was one of those movies that is beneficial for anyone to see.”
To round out Black History Month, BSA is hosting an African American Worship Experience on Tuesday, Feb. 28 at 7 p.m. that will be held in Miller Chapel. This evening of worship will also kick-start Heritage Week.
“One of the aspects that is different in African American churches than predominately white churches is this talk-back environment,” said Sayles. “The pastor expects to hear talking back from the congregation. It’s expected to be more lively and responsive. The culture of predominately black churches is very story-driven, so services are very oratory. It’s unexpected for most people and can be a bit of a shock at first.”
According to CRC office manager Linda Robertson, in her nine years of working with the CRC she has seen Black History Month transition from hosting just one event to a month-long celebration.
“I love getting to work with all different kinds of students,” said Robertson. “They really are the ones taking the initiative to put these things on.”
The CRC has also implemented a social media campaign via their Facebook page during the month of February.
Each day they have posted a “today in black history,” which highlights influential people and events throughout history that have paved the way for civil rights on that particular day.
“Black people have helped make this country what it is today,” said BSA member Alphonso Blackwell III. “You can’t talk about American history without black Americans.”