By Sasha Nyary
Mount Holyoke College will celebrate African Americans and art through a series of exhibits, performances, and speakers during Black History Month.
The events kick off with the opening of an art exhibit on Monday, February 1, and continue through the month with lectures and performances. Black History Month is sponsored by the College’s Association of Pan-African Unity (APAU) and the Africana studies department.
Black History Month at Mount Holyoke is designed to honor and celebrate the achievements and legacy of black Americans, said Heaven Hodge ’18, a neuroscience major and one of the lead organizers.
“We want to help educate people about the culture that we live every day,” Hodge said. “We want to help people become more knowledgeable about African American culture.”
Black History Month is for everyone, not just for African Americans, noted Latrina Denson, the associate dean of students who serves as the faculty/staff advisor for APAU.
“It’s a chance for everyone to learn, especially young children,” Denson said. “It’s very important that we stand up and salute the thousands of people who went before us, and their many sacrifices.”
The original event was founded in 1926 as Negro History Week by historian Carter G. Woodson, who chose the second week of February to coincide with the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln, Denson explained. At first it was just a week and only celebrated regionally. Eventually the week became a month, the name was changed, and the celebration was expanded across the country and adopted by Canada and Great Britain.
Discussions will focus on current events, advocacy movements such as Black Lives Matter, and how the media portrays these events, Hodge said.
“African Americans have achieved a lot, and there’s a lot more we have to do,” she said. “We are bringing awareness, celebrating who we are, where we are now, and looking at what do we need to do to continue moving forward.”
The organizers said they are looking forward to new and returning events.
Aurora Seamon ’17, who is majoring in critical social thought , said she wants to expand discussions of race and culture beyond the classroom.
“I want to see what students have to offer with poetry, singing, and dance,” she said.
Hodge also is looking forward to seeing other students explore their talents in a poetry workshop.
“I like sitting back and seeing what other people are putting together,” she said.
A new addition this year is a faculty and staff showcase, organized by Jonathan “JB” Nelson, night supervisor for facilities management. Nelson received a grant to support the evening from the Inclusiveness Initiatives Fund of the Multicultural Community and College Life Committee .
“We’re putting together a show, entertainment,” Nelson said. “I’m going to do a little magic show. We have some singers and we expect a DJ as well.”
All events are free and open to the public.
The following events are slated this year as part of Mount Holyoke College’s celebration of Black History Month.
- Black Girl Magic: The Art in Us
Blanchard Art Gallery
Opening reception on Monday, February 1, and continues through Thursday, February 4.
- Black Hollywood: Couch Talk with Kymberly Newberry
Thursday, February 4, 6:00–8:00 pm
- Black Coffee: Cafe Night
Friday, February 5, 8:00–10:00 pm
Blanchard Great Room
- “Where We Stand,” A hip-hop lecture by Shanté Paradigm Smalls, St. John’s University
Wednesday, February 10, 5:30–7:30 pm
- Ripped from the Pages poetry workshop
Wednesday, February 17, 6:30–8:00 pm
Betty Shabazz Center
- “A Rainbow of Different Colors,” A lecture on the New Jersey 4 by Mecca Jamilah Sullivan, UMass Amherst
Thursday, February 18, 5:30–7:45 pm
- Harlem Renaissance Night: The New Negro
Sunday, February 21, 3:00–6:00 pm
- Lynda Morgan, professor of history at Mount Holyoke College, will participate in a panel discussion on The Slave’s Cause: A History of Abolition, a new book by UMass Amherst professor Manisha Sinha. The event will be followed by a reception and book-signing and books will be available for purchase.
Tuesday, February 9, 4:00–6:00 pm
The Bernie Dallas Room, Goodell Hall on the UMass Amherst campus
- Staff and Faculty Showcase
Thursday, February 18, 7:30–9:00 pm
Blanchard Great Room
Faculty and staff interested in performing are invited to contact Jonathan “JB” Nelson at (413) 887-9458.