Vision and unity: Black History Month

Best-selling author Luvvie Ajayi

By Keely Savoie

Mount Holyoke College will celebrate Black History Month 2018 and the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Association of Pan-African Unity student organization with a series of events to inspire, impress and ignite unity and vision for students of all ethnic and national backgrounds.

conversation with Luvvie Ajayi on February 22 highlights the month’s events. Ajayi is an award-winning New York Times best-selling author, whose insights and wisdom from the front lines of race and justice in the United States are equally humorous and pointed. Her talk is slated for 7:30 p.m. in Gamble Auditorium.

The theme for the month-long celebration, “I Belong Here: Celebrating 50 Years of Black Excellence,” is a nod to a short film of the same name made by APAU alumna Dominique Jackson ’04.

“This year’s Black History Month is all the more special because we are also celebrating this great milestone for Mount Holyoke, the 50th anniversary of APAU,” said Associate Dean of Students for Community and Inclusion Latrina Denson. “As the first cultural organization established at the College, APAU embodies and honors the legacy of all students, faculty and staff from historically marginalized identities who have contributed to Mount Holyoke, the nation and the world.”  

Taylor Longmire ’20, who majors in Africana studies, has gained a deeper appreciation for the number and depth of contributions made by students of color at Mount Holyoke through her efforts in organizing the month’s events.

“Working on this has been the most amazing opportunity,” said Longmire, who co-chaired organizing the month’s events with Tatiyana Lewis ’20, an English major. “Although APAU has so much history, we didn’t know much about it. This was an opportunity for us to connect and communicate with one another and to reaffirm that we are here for each other. That we are here because we belong here.”

To celebrate Black History Month, the College will feature events and exhibits across campus offered by a variety of offices, such as Division of Student Life, the Art Museum, Library and Information Technology Services (LITS), the Africana studies program and MHACASA (Mount Holyoke African and Caribbean Students Association). They include:

This talk opens the Mount Holyoke College Art Museum’s exhibit, “Piece Together: The Quilts of Mary Lee Bendolph,” on display through May 27. Wardlaw is an expert on African American art and history and professor of art history at Texas Southern University. A reception follows the talk.

Wednesday, Jan. 31, 5:30 p.m., Gamble Auditorium

  • "Read Black" display

More than 50 books by black authors, featuring black characters, or about the historical black experience, including Luvvie Ajayi’s book, “I'm Judging You: The Do-Better Manual,” will be on view at the library along with an associated digital display.

Opens Thursday, Feb. 1, library atrium, on view through the month.

  • “The History and Importance of Black College Student Movements in the 60s,” a lecture by John H. Bracey Jr.

This talk by Bracey, a professor in the W.E.B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst since 1972, officially kicks off Black History Month at Mount Holyoke.

Thursday, February 1, 7 p.m., Hooker Auditorium

  • Black History Month Opening Gallery Reception

Contributions by past and present APAU members will be displayed before they are sealed in a time capsule to be stored in Archives and Special Collections.

Thursday, Feb. 1, 8:30 p.m., Blanchard Art Gallery

  • A visit to Archives and Special Collections for members of APAU and other members of the Mount Holyoke community

Community members who identify with the African diaspora are invited to examine the history of black students at the College with Leslie Fields, the facility’s head.

Sunday, Feb. 4, Archives and Special Collections

  • “I Belong Here,” a short film by Dominique Jackson ’04

Thursday, Feb. 15, the Betty Shabazz Cultural Center

Thursday, Feb. 22, 4:15 p.m., Art Galleries

  • Keynote event: A conversation with Luvvie Ajayi

Ajayi's book, “I'm Judging You: The Do-Better Manual,” will be available for purchase, courtesy of the Odyssey Bookshop.

Thursday, February 22, 7:30 p.m., Gamble Auditorium

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