This February, the Black Student Union (BSU) and the Diversity and Intercultural Center (D&IC) have worked together to develop a series of events to celebrate Black History Month. Malcolm Davis, sophomore and Diversity & Intercultural Center Program Coordinator, collaborated with Sarah Navy, junior and Black Student Union (BSU) President, to organize these events.
In January, Davis reached out to Navy to work with BSU to develop and plan more events to celebrate Black History Month at Lawrence. With the help of Assistant Dean of Students and the Director of the Diversity and Intercultural Center Brittany Bell, they created a virtual event for each week of February.
Each event was held on Zoom at BSU’s regular meeting time of Tuesday at 6 p.m. in compliance with COVID-19 restrictions. They kicked off this series of events with Black History Jeopardy on Feb. 2.
On Feb. 9, BSU and the D&IC hosted a screening of the film “Talking Black in America.” Navy explained that this film educated audiences about how African American Vernacular English has been understood as “bad,” when, in reality, it’s just rooted in a different history.
Davis stated that it was important for both Black and white people to watch this documentary because it provided a better understanding of the history behind African American Vernacular English. On Feb. 16, a question and answer session with Executive Producer Walt Wolfram and Associate Producer Renée Blake was held. Wolfram is a professor at North Carolina State University and the director of the Language and Life Project. Blake is an Associate Professor of Linguistics and Social and Cultural Analysis at New York University. They answered students’ questions and provided a space for students to express their reactions to the documentary.
To end their weekly events, Jill Beck Director of Film Studies and Associate Professor of Film Studies Amy Ongiri will lead a discussion of the book “Heavy,” written by Winter Term convocation speaker Kiese Laymon on Feb. 23. Because those who registered for this discussion received a free copy of the book, it is limited to BSU members only.
“The goal is to leave the events with a new perspective to deepen one’s own understanding of Black history and have the ability to share with others what they learn,” concluded Davis.
In addition to these Tuesday night events, BSU and the D&IC worked together to help BSU members register for the virtual African Heritage Emerging Leader Institute on Feb. 11. This was implemented to fulfill Davis’ goal of providing students with a professional development workshop. At this event, BSU members were joined by students from both historically Black colleges and predominately white institutions. According to Davis, leading Black professionals from Wisconsin and around the world shared their advice about corporate careers. The workshop also consisted of many networking opportunities for participants.