2022’s Black History Month centers Black joy

The two Mount Holyoke College students who led the planning and organizing of this year’s Black History Month events wanted to center Black joy.

Two Mount Holyoke College students who led the planning and organizing of this year’s Black History Month events think the celebrations are about more than intersectional identities, community building and amplifying Black voices. 

“It’s about being joyful,” said Geraldine Louis ’24. “It’s about thinking of all the good things about being Black or by being a part of the African diaspora.”

Louis, from West Orange, New Jersey, and Ziyadan Zeigler ’23, from New York City, are both on the board of the Association of Pan-African Unity, or APAU, a student organization. 

This year, the theme for Black History Month is “Black and ________.” 

The open-ended theme was a way to encompass the many ways there are to be Black. “When I think of Black History Month, I think of phrases like ‘Black power’ or ‘Black is beautiful,’” said Zeigler. “How can we encapsulate the depth and the multifaceted experience of Blackness and Black people without just giving it one label?” 

The “fill-in-the-blank” theme was a way to be inclusive. “Anyone can fill in that space if they wanted to, whatever that person chooses it to be,” said Louis. 

Louis and Zeigler have been involved with APAU from the beginning of their respective Mount Holyoke careers, but this is their first time on the board of the organization. One of their goals for this year’s events is to build community, something they both feel has been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“I started college with online classes, and it was really hard to be involved,” said Louis. 

“COVID-19 really interrupted the kind of bond APAU had before, so we had to figure out a way to reintroduce that community to students,” said Zeigler. 

Black History Month has weekly themes of “Black and Supreme,” “Black and Beloved,” “Black and Authentic” and “Black and Jovial.” Events include weekly movie nights; interfaith lunches; talks on authors Octavia Butler, DaMaris Hill and Daniel Black; explorations of Black-Jewish solidarity and a watch party for the NAACP Image Awards. 

There is one event that both Louis and Zeigler are looking forward to, that they both believe encapsulates Black joy at Mount Holyoke. 

“The Gala is going to just be the cherry on the top for the entire month,” said Louis. The Black History Month Gala is a “festive and formal” event. 

“I feel like Black luxury is something that’s in now, and it should stay in trend forever,” said Zeigler. “We need a safe space and time.” 

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