“I believe Black History Month is very important and is one of the many ways that we show appreciation for those who paved the way before us,” said Tomas Greer ’15, in a segment in The Griffin, student newspaper. “Though it’s only one month, I believe that it’s only right that we show admiration for our black pioneers all the time. We likely would not have had the civil liberties and privileges that we have now without them.”
Greer’s sentiment is one shared by all members of the College community, especially the Black Student Union, which has been instrumental in bringing diverse perspectives to light and have been active in educating the population on issues of paramount importance. As part of Black History Month this year, the BSU chose to look at the whole of black history, not just the colonial part, which is often what is taught in schools.
The event titled “We Are More Than Slavery,” allowed students an open forum for dialogue, sharing and questions, and was designed to celebrate and embrace various black cultures, origins, nationalities and self-identities.
“It’s important for us to know where we come from and that our history begins prior to slavery,” said Kaliek Asbury ’17, president of the BSU. “But that part isn’t often taught in schools so it’s up to us individually to do that self-discovery and share our experiences with others.”
The event addressed the African diaspora, which refers to communities throughout the world that have come to be as a result of descent from the movement in historic times of the peoples of Africa. The diaspora predominantly focuses on that migration throughout the Americas, including Puerto Rico and other Afro-Latin countries, which make up a substantial portion of black Americans in the United States.
For Asbury, who is of Puerto Rican descent, it was important to address and reinforce the idea that black doesn’t just mean African-American, as is so often assumed by members of the Caucasian population in the United States.
“There are people from this school from Haiti, from Puerto Rico, from all of these countries and we just want them to know it is okay to celebrate and embrace that heritage and identify with it regardless of what the perception may be,” says Asbury. “That was part of the reasoning for doing this event.”
In addition to celebrating varied cultural differences among the black community, “We Are More Than Slavery,” focused on the accomplishments and impacts of black people in all realms and walks of life including in the music industry, sports, historically and more.
“In a lot of ways you can say that without black individuals, so many things that we recognize today culturally wouldn’t exist,” says Asbury. “We wanted people to acknowledge that and to celebrate the parts of black history closest to their particular heritage or background.”
- Marilee Gallagher '14