By ELIZABETH DEVINE
Despite the current racial tensions throughout the United States, the faculty and students of Mary Washington have been working hard to unify the campus through a series of Black History Month celebrations. Many people have spent months planning and preparing for the events with hopes to promote social justice and equality while paying tribute to the numerous the accomplishments of African-Americans in our society.
Throughout the month of February, UMW’s James Farmer Multicultural Center (JFMC) will be holding a wide range of programs and activities, such as lectures, panel discussions, and entertainment events. According to Dr. Marion Sanford, the Director of the JFMC, these events will help students recognize “how we can grow and heal with peace and love.”
UMW student organizations have also played a major role in organizing and hosting this month’s events. Student representatives worked months in advance doing their part in selecting key speakers and programs.
The Black Student Association (BSA) was one of these organizations and will be co-sponsoring the Step Show on Saturday, February 24 at 7 p.m.. President of the club, Chiann Todd, is proud to contribute to the event which will bring together historically black Greek organizations from different universities, members from the Fredericksburg community, local high school teams, and UMW’s own step team, Alter Egos.
“Hands-down, it is my favorite event,” said Todd.
Hosted by the African Student Union (ASU), Colors of Africa is an event that highlights Caribbean, African, and traditional African- American culture through music, dance, and food. Their mission statement explains how ASU will hold this event, “to celebrate the cultures that Black people create. Whether it is Black people of the African continent, African Americans, or Caribbean islanders, Blackness is a transnational and multicultural experience and it ought to be celebrated as such.”
Along with popular, annual events, like the Step Show, the JFMC is holding new programs this year, including the public forum, Parallels: Past and Present. Hosted by Erin Krutko Devlin, assistant professor of history and American studies. This forum highlights the similarities between the, “mid-century civil rights movement and contemporary struggles for social justice,” according to JFMC’s website.
“Especially in light of what we are dealing with in this society, I think this will be a very interesting discussion that focuses on what we can do to make change happen in a positive way in our campus and country,” said Sanford. “The campus community can be a microcosm of the larger society.”
Campus Dining also hosts several dinners in honor of Black History Month. This month’s dining events include Southern Soul Food, Caribbean, Cajun/Creole/Mardi Gras, and African Cuisine. Menus include dishes such as Creole jambalaya, beef jolof, collard greens with ham, mango pork with apple fennel salad, and much more.
By collaborating with representatives of the BSA and the JFMC, Campus Dining develops menus that celebrate various African cultures. These menus are reviewed every year, and are flexible for changes due to suggestions from students and other members of the UMW community.
“Over the last ten years, we have worked with student representatives and JFMC faculty to explore ideas and make these menus, so that it is not just Campus Dining making the final decisions,” Rose Benedict, the Campus Dining Marketing Manager, said. “This is a partnership. We want to be flexible and open to suggestions.”
In future years, Todd would like to see more students go to the Black History Month events. “Sometimes it’s hard for us to step out of our comfort zone, but it’s important to understand that diversity and inclusion is essential for this celebration,” said Todd. “We put these events on for the [entire] campus.”
To all the people who help contribute to UMW’s celebrations of black history, this month gives them an opportunity to show what is means to be African-American. When asked what this month means to her, Todd beamed, “It is a month that allows others to learn how to value diversity and inclusion.”