A Sesquicentennial Celebration Of Black History
Published: Monday, February 4, 2013
Updated: Monday, February 4, 2013 01:02
It was only 42 years ago that black students were first admitted to Boston College. A lot has changed since, and it would be hard to imagine a BC campus today without its diverse student body and multi-cultural experiences. To celebrate both black history and the 150th anniversary of BC’s founding, the Office of AHANA Student Programs and Student Affairs has set the theme of this year’s Black History month as "Ever Progressive: A Sesquicentennial Celebration of Black History."
Rayana Grace, A&S ’13, who serves as a co-chair of the Black History month committee at the AHANA office, along with Sandra Dickson, CSON ’13, offered insight into the purpose of celebrating the month and its intended effect on BC. With multiple events and the integrated support of various groups on campus such as FACES and the Multi-Christian Fellowship, Grace excitedly stated that this Black History month is going to be even better than the months past. It will showcase a diverse array of events from a dual-panel discussion series, cultural dinners, documentary showings, to musical performances by the BEATS and the Voices of Imani, as well as Spoken Word performances. The big kick-off event of the entire month is on Feb. 6 at Corcoran Commons. "We want to offer events that appeal to everyone," Grace said. "The events we have planned are entertaining, but have an important underlying, educational tone."
When asked about the goal of celebrating Black History month, Grace commented the most significant goal is to produce and continue a conversation about black culture, history, and issues. The relevant topics discussed at panels, speaker events, and documentary showings should not end there, but should be brought back into the students’ lives and their conversations with friends and family. Only when there is active, continuing conversation about black issues amongst the students can the BC community progress toward further tolerance, awareness, and understanding.
Grace expressed her own anticipation for the events to come. She is looking forward to the dual-panel discussion the most, held on Feb. 13 in Gasson Hall, which will delve into the issues dealing with "Battle of Complexions: The Significance of Skin Color in the Black Community" and "Why Can’t I say the N Word." There are layers of complex issues even within the black community, as the titles of the panel discussion suggest, that are often overlooked or oversimplified by most. Grace hopes these panel discussions and speaker events will dispel simplified explanations of colored culture and history.
Celebrating Black History month allows her, as well as many other students of color at BC, to "reflect how far people like me have come" and find a sense of pride in her roots. "Still," Grace reflects, "we have a long way to go." Black history is allotted one month of the year, when it should always be celebrated and learned throughout the entire year. Grace noted that many of the courses at BC tend to be Eurocentric, accrediting caucasian figures as the founders of modern society and praising them for achievements when only a few iconic black figures are studied in depth. The argument that black history should not be separately celebrated from American history has generated some opposition against having Black History month at all. Recently, acclaimed actor Morgan Freeman caught the attention of many when he publicly stated that he finds Black History month "ridiculous." He stated, "You are going to relegate my history to a month?" and that racism will not end until we "stop talking about it." "I’m going to stop calling you a white man. And I’m going to ask you to stop calling me a black man." His argument is that dedicating and setting apart a distinct month to black history seems to defeat the purpose of helping people see black history as American history, intertwined and indistinguishable. Freeman’s intent is noble, but perhaps we are not collectively ready as a society to see things his way, not yet. Progress takes time, and there are still too many who have not been exposed to the big picture, the significance of black history and culture in relation to the entire nation. Also, the argument can be made that being completely "color blind" may not necessarily be a good end goal. Celebrating a distinct Black History month can be seen as celebrating the different traditions, culture, and stories that make the whole mural of our nation a lot more colorful.
So, come to the events that the AHANA house has prepared for Black History month. Celebrate the different cultural, political, and social ideas and traditions that an extraordinary group of people have contributed to our school and nation. Be a part of a living and moving conversation, because Black History month is not only the story of one group of people, but also the progressing story of us all.