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BAIC’s Black History Month Opening Celebration Praises Black Excellence

Valerie Lewis-Mosley, co-creator of the AHANA acronym at Boston College, said that she is neither a token nor the sum of her parts. Her words echo the powerful sentiments spoken throughout the BAIC’s Black History Month Opening Celebration on Thursday night.

“[Black History Month] is more than a month,” Lewis-Mosley, the event’s keynote speaker and BC ’79, said. “It is more than 24/7, it is every fiber of your every day, of your every existence.”

As Gasson 100 filled with energetic music, the room transformed into a lively space for BC’s community to celebrate this year’s theme: “We Are One.” 

“We must also not forget the richness of our culture and the vast representation in our diaspora,” said Kimberlyn Jones, one of this year’s Black History Month co-chairs and CSON ’22. “Black love, Black joy, Black excellence means we are one means we are together.”

The celebration featured numerous Black student artists, many of whom read emotion-filled poetry and personal narratives. 

“For me, my freshman year self defined excellence as a leader who was engaged in everything on campus,” said Latifat Odetunde, BC’s 2021 Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship recipient and MCAS ’22. “It is the same word that has been dehumanizing, where even today I struggled with knowing how to celebrate myself, since excellence is what is not expected.” 

Odetunde encouraged the audience to join her in a series of affirmations and reflect upon what excellence means for each individual in the room.  

“I am worthy,” Odetunde said. “I am important. I am love. I am Black excellence. Today I choose to celebrate me.”

The celebration repeated the theme of Black excellence throughout the night.

“Just among this Boston College campus there are infinite displays of Black excellence,” Lewis-Mosley said. “There’s no single form of Black excellence because there’s no one single form of the Black identity.” 

During her keynote speech, Lewis-Mosley reflected on her identity by recalling her experience as a nursing student and freshman resident in Fenwick Hall. 

“Boston College taught me a lot in nursing, and I applied it to a framework that looked like me, sounded like me, was for me, and was by me,” Lewis-Mosley said. 

Lewis-Mosley said that she attended BC through its Black Talent scholarship program, which began in the fall of 1968. Lewis-Mosley’s involvement in the program shaped her decision to mentor other Black students in the Connell School of Nursing, she said.

“I had a foundation that would not only allow me to succeed, but also help me to mentor others,” Lewis-Mosley said. 

Lewis-Mosley’s keynote speech was followed by performances by multiple BC dance groups, including Sexual Chocolate, whom performed step routines. 

Other groups performed a cappella songs, including Louis Armstrong’s “Go Down Moses.”

“We see dancers, we see poets, we see leaders, and we see changemakers, and within these, we see infinite subcategories which only resound the complexity of Black excellence,” Jones said.

Flyers provided at the ceremony gave a link to a document with a racial justice call to action, listing resources and actions to support the Black Lives Matter cause.

“When you know who you are, you value who you are,” Lewis-Mosley said. “Watching the young folks here tonight reminded me that they were very clear about who they were, and whose they were.”

Featured Image by Leo Wang / Heights Staff

February 4, 2022