In a typical year, the Thea Bowman AHANA and Intercultural Center (BAIC) kicks off Black History Month with a large opening celebration stocked with student performances, guest speakers, food, apparel, and music.
But the annual celebration, like many others this past year, had to be moved online.
“This year was a little different,” Danielle Date, an assistant director at the BAIC, said. “So we had our opening celebration via Zoom. We had about 100 attendees at one given time. … And then on the Friday we had a grab and go lunch.”
Date said that although the format of this year’s celebration, which featured associate professor of French and African and African Diaspora Studies Régine Michelle Jean-Charles, was a little different, the overall message was the same.
Highlighting Jean-Charles, a powerful Black woman in the Boston College community, the event in early February was fitting following the incidents of vandalism and harassment on the Multicultural Learning Experience (MLE) floor of Xavier Hall, Date said.
“She focused her talk on Black joy and especially what happened on the MLE floor,” Date said. “So you know it’s kind of fitting, what happened in that recent time, and just empowering the community, especially Black females.”
Date said that the Black History Month Committee wanted a Black woman to be the keynote speaker at the celebration and was initially looking to get an outside speaker for the event. But Jean-Charles felt more personal, Date said, as Jean-Charles is familiar with BC’s students, culture, and campus.
“We realized we have so many powerful Black women here on campus, and we realized like, ‘Why don’t we use Régine?’,” Date said. “All students of color really respect her and she has such a powerful presence on campus.”
Date said that this year, the BAIC’s themes for Black History Month were ‘Celebrating Black Joy’ and ‘Stronger Together.’
“We wanted to not only look at the trauma and the burdens that Black people face,” Date said. “[But] also look at the positives, the joy, the accomplishments of our students [and] of the Black community because sometimes we just focus on those negative things. We wanted to spread that message of uplifting.”
To spread this message, Darnell Fils, MCAS ’22 and co-chair of the Black History Month Committee, said that each day of the Month the BAIC social media platforms featured a BC student who would define what Black joy meant to them.
“You saw all the events that happen during the summer, and even throughout our lifetimes as well, and it’s always shone like a bit of darkness, a bit of despair,” Fils said. “But at the end of the day, just showing that Black people are still happy. They’re still resilient.”
Though the BAIC office itself, which Fils said is usually full of people, does not have as many visitors this year due to social distancing requirements, the office is still highly involved in the BC community.
“I think the office has done a great job of still being engaging and still being active,” Fils said. “There is still academic advising provided by the administrative directors and associate directors. There’s the food events that encourage people to come into the office to just come by, say hi, pick up their food.”
Both Date and Fils emphasized that although Black History Month is coming to an end, the themes and messages they promoted will still be relevant afterward.
“Black History Month is only February, but continuing to spread these messages throughout the year, you know,” Date said. “We’re Black every day, right. It doesn’t change.”
The committee hoped to drive home the idea of being Black and proud of who you are, Fils said.
“Black joy is an act of resistance, and also a force for healing,” Fils said. “It means that even if society doesn’t respect you or accept you for who you are, you still love yourself too much to be affected by other people’s opinions.”
Featured Graphic by Olivia Charbonneau / Heights Editor