Sophomore Jahnavi Pradhan and juniors Kim Du and Reese Lavajo help distribute dyes and herbs for the students who are making candles. Photo by Alana Melvin.
In honor of Black History Month, which spans the month of February, the Black Student Union (BSU) has planned a series of events to celebrate and reflect on Black history. The Committee on Diversity Affairs (CODA) and the Diversity and Intercultural Center (D&IC) have provided funding to support BSU, as well as assistance in planning events.
Events started Feb. 4, with a speaking event from Mr. Speaker, which is the pseudonym he uses professionally, about financial and business strategies. On Feb. 9, there was a candle-making event coordinated by BSU and the Pan-Asian Organization (PAO). According to the PAO Board, the two groups have been wanting to collaborate in order to showcase solidarity and support with each other’s respective organizations, and this event was a fun and easy way to deepen their relationship.
Events to follow will include a Step Workshop from Senior Raven Ganaway on Saturday, Feb. 12, in the Wellness Center, and free haircuts from Black hairdressers on Thursday and Friday, Feb. 17–18. Following this will be the annual Black Excellence Ball, a formal dance meant to showcase the achievements of Black people, on Sunday, Feb. 19, at the Esch Hurvis Center.
There will also be a lecture on Sunday, Feb. 20 from St. Norbert Professor and Dean of Social Sciences Omobolade Delano-Oriaran, who was brought in by CODA, on Black history in Appleton. The lecture will coincide with the unveiling of the Stone of Hope exhibit, which is a series of floor banners which honor and celebrate Black history in the Fox Cities. It will be open in the Seeley Mudd library.
Black History Month will end with a Spirit Week from Feb. 21-26, which will culminate with Cultural Expressions, an annual talent show meant to highlight the talents of Black Lawrentians, on Saturday, Feb. 26.
According to BSU co-president and Junior Amaka Uduh, Black History Month has changed a bit in recent years. As part of this, POC Empowerment Week, an annual week of activities that are meant to empower Lawrence students of color, has been moved to later in the year, in order to keep Black History Month about Black history and encourage Lawrentians to support Black people outside of February.
Last year, Black History Month was entirely virtual, and many of the events had to be canceled or rolled back due to pandemic restrictions. This year, BSU wants to have an in-person celebration, but in order to keep Black History Month COVID-19 safe, masks will be mandated for all events, and a negative test will be required before anyone from off campus enters any buildings. A negative test is also strongly suggested for students who take advantage of the haircuts, according to Uduh.
Uduh hopes that the Black History Month events will succeed in acknowledging the historical mistreatment of Black people, celebrating Black culture and history and honoring those who fought against oppression and racism. Events such as Cultural Expressions will celebrate the talents and accomplishments of Black students, while the Stone of Hope Exhibit will acknowledge and honor Black history in the Fox Cities.
“Black History Month is about celebrating our ancestors, the people who fought for us to be here, who fought against segregation, racism and slavery,” said Uduh, “When I think of Black history, I think of my skin, my hair, my eyes, my build, the way I walk, my beautiful Black family and friends.”
Although Black History Month is about Black people, Uduh encouraged non-Black Lawrence students to take part in the celebration. She wants all students who want to celebrate to feel welcome. Although discrimination against Black Lawrentians remains an issue, Uduh stressed the importance of celebrating Blackness.
“Don’t look at us and just see oppression,” she added.