The Thea Bowman AHANA Intercultural Center (BAIC) hosted its celebratory Black History Month opening ceremony, featuring various poems, talks, songs, and dances centering on the black culture and history in the United States, on Tuesday, Feb. 11, in Gasson 100.
Andy Petigny, associate director of the BAIC, delivered the opening words, describing the event’s purpose and importance. Events like these, Petigny said, add to the education students receive at BC because some of the lessons that are taught about black history in the United States often fail to express the feelings of grief, triumph, despair, and pride mixed together.
Posters lined the wall highlighting black Americans who have made a profound impact on American history. Petigny joked that the posters “added to the decor of Gasson Hall,” which only features portraits of white men central to BC’s history.
The co-chairs of the committee organizing the ceremony, Teon Smith, CSOM ’23, and Edil Mohamed, Lynch ’22, said that the event was an opportunity to discuss the importance of black history.
The event, Mohamed said, enables “students in the community to express what Black History Month means to them.”
Joana Maynard, senior assistant director of the BAIC, delivered the opening prayer, in which she gave thanks to the “giants of black history whose shoulders we stand upon” while making something out of the legacy those figures left behind.
Following the prayer, B.E.A.T.S. (Black Experience in America Through Song), BC’s a cappella group dedicated to soul and R&B, sang “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” commonly known as the Black National Anthem. Originally a poem written by James Weldon Johnson in a posthumous celebration of Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, the NAACP adopted it as its official song.
A hush fell over the crowd as Ja’Colby Freeman, MCAS ’23, stood at the microphone waiting for the audience’s attention to fall on him. Beginning by singing a few verses of the song “Glory” by Common and John Legend, Freeman then moved into free-verse spoken word layered with the pain of being a black man in America.
Freeman lamented the need of “having to constantly prove yourself to a society that doesn’t want you.” But, Freeman said, being black is “a state of being, a state of grace.”
Stencia Bastien, CSOM ’23, then sang “Rise up” by Andra Day, followed by Grace Assogba, MCAS ’22, who gave a speech on what it means to her to show love. The chosen student speaker, Sydney Boyd, MCAS ’20, then gave the audience advice she said she wished she had been given as a freshman. Boyd emphasized the importance of self-advocacy, arguing, “If not you, who? If not now, when?”
The Voices of Imami then sang “I Need You to Survive,” a gospel song by Hezekiah Walker. Smith was at the front of the formation and sang a rendition of John Legend’s “Glory” with gospel undertones. They were followed by a performance from step group Sexual Chocolate.
Samara Kapurura, MCAS ’23, then asked the audience to think about the meaning of the word “blackness.” She highlighted three themes representing what Black History Month means to her: empowerment, inclusion, and encouragement. Kapurura stressed the importance of emulating these three words when helping others because, as she said, “through feeling encouraged, I am empowered to achieve.”
F.I.S.T.S. (Females Incorporating Sisterhood Through Step) provided the last group performance of the evening. Each member of the all-female step team recited a stanza of the poem “Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou as they danced. As their pace gradually increased and their steps got louder, the audience grew louder and more excited.
Rev. Michael Davidson, S.J., director of the BAIC, then took the stage to encourage the audience members to appreciate BC for gifting them with a Jesuit education, telling them to use their education to change the world and make it better for following generations. Davidson closed by asking the crowd to return to class, because they cannot hope to be the drivers of change without getting their education.
Featured Image by Leo Wang / Heights Staff