Black History Month began in 1926 when Carter G. Woodson pronounced the second week in February to be “Negro History Week,” and it became Black History Month when students from Kent State University pushed for the change in 1970. Black History Month is celebrated today by the U.S., Canada, U.K. and Germany during the month of February (or in one case October) annually to remember and inform people of the events and notable figures in black history.
The Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA) is celebrating the holiday with events and exhibits throughout the month of February. The University has been celebrating Black History Month annually for the past few years with the help of OMA and its director, Paul Porter, Ph.D.
“I think the importance for this campus is to be able to see and reflect how far we’ve come as a country but to also see how much more work we have left to do,” Porter said.
The schedule of events kicked off Feb. 11 with a “Speakeasy.” The event was a student-facilitated dialogue about race. OMA along with United Colors Organization (UCO) sponsored and promoted the event.
Students and guests joined together again Feb. 12 for a soul food dinner in honor of Black History Month. The “authentic southern cuisine” was served at Elm Park Church. During the dinner, guests listened to a speech by Morey Myers, J.D., a Pennsylvania attorney who was directly involved in the Civil Rights Movement. Myers travelled to Mississippi and Florida in the 1960s to help the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). He defended those charged with civil disobedience during the Civil Rights Movement.
OMA sponsored an interactive exhibit in The DeNaples Center that focused on African-Americans in the media. Different areas were set up with informational content, each focusing on a different part of African-American history in the media. The categories included television, music, sports, poetry and much more. Each individual exhibit was set up in an interactive way. Questions were asked on poster boards and visitors were able to put their answers on notes and stick them on the board. Other exhibits asked for any examples the visitors could think of for that specific category, such as popular African-American television shows. Sophomore Deepa Patel, OMA work study student, ran the event and explained the importance of black figures in history.
“I think it’s important to celebrate Black History Month because as the years go on we tend to forget what black history month signifies,” Patel said.
OMA set up a screening of a “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” episode entitled “American Tragedy” Feb. 18. The episode concerned a racially focused trial that possessed elements similar to top news stories including the George Zimmerman trial, the Paula Dean scandal and the “stop and frisk” issue. The writer and producer of the episode, Jill Abbinanti, then joined the viewers on Skype for a Q and A about the episode and her work on show.
Another screening will be shown at 8 p.m. Tuesday in the Moskovitz Theater. “Lee Daniels The Butler” will be played as a joint OMA Black History Month event and a USPB event. The film is about an African-American butler in the White House who lives through many momentous events such as the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War.
UCO and the Jane Kopas Women’s Center will organize a candlelight vigil and “poetry slam” in room 405 of the Denaples Center at 7 p.m. Feb. 27.
Porter said that having these types of events are important to go along with the purpose of OMA, and the significance of Black History Month at The University is important to him.
“Our primary purpose is to increase multicultural competence,” Porter said. “We are all part of the road to equality.”
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