News, On Campus

Annual BHM Opening Ceremony Highlights Black Voices Through Art and Music

The Heights Room filled with the sound of upbeat music and lively chatter on Thursday night as famous quotes of renowned Black figures projected onto a big screen. 

“Black History Month doesn’t start February 1st—it starts the day you’re born and never ends,” Michael Warrior Bonds, featured performance poet, said. 

Members of the Boston College community gathered on Thursday night for the annual Black History Month opening celebration, which was themed “Resistance Thru Art.”

“Not only is tonight a night to recognize the strength and the creativity of our peoples, it is also a night centered around our theme of resistance through arts,” said Johany Jeune, CSON ’25, who co-emceed the event alongside Nyla Boler, CSON ’25.

In her opening speech, Director of the Thea Bowman AHANA and Intercultural Center Yvonne McBarnett noted the importance of recognizing struggles and triumphs associated with the African American experience. 

“As we reflect upon the struggles of the past, let us also celebrate the resilience, courage, and triumphs that have defined the African American experience,” McBarnett said.

According to McBarnett, Black History Month allows people to appreciate the pioneers of African American history.

“This month offers us a unique opportunity to delve into the rich tapestry of African American history, acknowledging the pivotal moments and remarkable individuals who have shaped our society,” McBarnett said. 

Christie Louis, MCAS ’24 and recipient of BC’s 2023 Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship, spoke about her personal experience at BC and the vital intersection between art, resistance, language, and identity. 

“While it is important to acknowledge that the root for our need to be resistant is rooted in oppression and racial injustice, we would be remiss to not recognize that through the acts of resistance, that we are able to reclaim our joy and share the stories of our ancestors,” Louis said. 

Louis spoke about art as a universal language and how it can serve to amplify stories of the Black experience that are difficult to convey through words alone. 

“[Art] has the power to speak the words and illustrate the stories of both the struggles and the joy that is part of our Black identity that are often too painful to articulate,” Louis said. “Art is the common language spoken by all peoples throughout the diaspora and serves as a bridge that brings our experiences together.”

Bonds reflected on Black histories—both personal and global—through his performance poetry, which was accompanied by live piano music.

“We have Malcolms,” Bonds said. “We have Martins. We have Fred Hamptons. You know, we have humans. We have all those living today amongst us. We just take it for granted that we live amongst them.”

Levi Ngabirano, CSOM ’25, recited a poem by Nayyirah Waheed titled “Rage” to introduce Sexual Chocolate’s step routines. 

“If we wanted to, people of color could burn the world down,” Ngabirano read. “For what we have experienced. Are experiencing. But we don’t. How stunningly beautiful that our sacred respect for the earth. For life is deeper than our rage.”

In addition to these performances, BEATS sang a rendition of the Black national anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” Singer-songwriter Angus Williams, MCAS ’25—known by his stage name CARAMEL—performed an original song titled “Nameless.” 

Voices of Imani also performed a spiritual song called “Keep your Lamps Trimmed and Burning.” Their director, Shannon Jacob, noted the inherent form of resistance in spiritual music. 

“[‘Keep your Lamps Trimmed and Burning’] not only encourages you to stay prepared, ready, but also not to get weary until all the work is done,” Jacob said.

Nnenna Okorie, MCAS ’26, said the Black History Month opening ceremony helps shed light on Black voices on campus.

“Especially because I think—when it comes Black History Month—people think of it like in the past, but like [Bonds] said on stage … Black History Month is started the day we’re born and continues forever,” Okorie said. “So I think it’s to highlight the contributions of Black people, like all throughout history, from all parts of the diaspora, and to also highlight student voices on campus.”

February 2, 2024