February 28, 2003

C.U. Memorializes Black History Month

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In honor of Black History Month, the Cornell community has been able to participate in a month of programming that included a number of educational and social events.

Programming included showings of films, open forums about diversity and race relations and lectures among other events.

Ken Glover, director of Ujamaa Residential College, said that one of the benefits, specifically from the films and talks was that they, “helped students learn more about the issues that affect black people in the United States.”

Glover also noted the importance of the student-run programming and the large amount of events available to the community.

Prof. James Turner, Africana studies said that, “what February [Black History Month] is intended for is both to highlight African-American history as part of world history and certainly United States history.”

The original goals of Black History Month were that of education, which should continue throughout the year especially in an academic environment and attention to the events facing the black community, according to Turner.

He stressed the importance of educating the community about history. “The standard approach to national and world history is flawed,” he said. He also stated that he hoped that during the month “people would come out and learn about the value of African history and understand the importance of it to a well-rounded education.”

As part of the events in celebration of Black History Month, Turner participated in a “fireside chat” and discussion in Balch Hall on Feb. 20th entitled “Diversity in the 21st Century: Where Are We Going? Where Have We Been?” Turner said that the forum was beneficial because it “allowed students to have an open discussion” and that it was a success for all of those involved, as both the speakers and students continued discussion far after the allotted time had ended. “We were all overwhelmed [by the response],” Turner said.

Students organized a large number of the events in honor of Black History Month. In particular, a group of residence advisors from throughout Cornell’s campus developed a large number of events, including Black Cultural Night, a free event held Feb. 22nd which featured a variety of entertainers. Turner noted this event as one of the highlights of the week and said that he was impressed with the response the event received from the community.

Algernon Cargill ’05, was part of the group of residence advisors that planned a weeklong program entitles “Showcase of the Diaspora: From Africa to the Americas.”

He noted the one of the many positive outcomes of the programming done by students was the group effort.

“I really enjoyed collaborating with RA’s from throughout the campus on a shared goal: to educate others on black people, achievement, culture, and social issues. It was truly positive to see such a large and united force,” Cargill said.

Cargill called the Black Culture Night event “uplifting and entertaining.”

According to Diane St. Fleur ’03, also a residence hall advisor who worked on programming, “I believe our goal was to provide a program that celebrates Black history month in a Pan-African way. We wanted to celebrate our African heritage with our sisters and brothers throughout the African Diaspora not just in the United States.”

Robert Harris, vice provost of diversity and faculty development, noted the “rich variety” of events planned throughout the month and said that he was impressed with the “initiative that students took in pulling together different events at different community centers,” Harris said.

St. Fleur pointed out the importance of the opportunity given to student leaders in planning events for Black History Month. “We can learn, discuss and rejoice that we have such a unique experience and we can be proud of that. As a senior I have not experience such a program on this scale to the greater Cornell community,” she said.

In addition to the many programs held on Cornell’s campus, events were held throughout Ithaca. Ithaca’s Southside Community Center sponsored a variety of programming, including a speaker series held every Saturday. According to Toshav Storrs, program director of the Community Center, there was a large variety of speakers, including Turner.

Storrs said that a committee was formed to pick the speakers. The committee included members such as the Greater Ithaca Activities Center, Cornell Library Systems, the Historical Society and the Southside Community Center, among others.

“This group got together and planned [the series],” Storrs said. According to Storrs, the main goal of the series was to highlight the roles of black people in history and science. In addition to the speaker series, the Community Center also helped sponsor several theater shows and movies, as well as an exhibit at the Dewitt History Center and an African Art Tour.

St. Fleur said that she hoped that Cornell community members took several things from the events and programming of Black History Month. “One, I hope we will to continue a program like this and make it bigger and better. Secondly. I hope that the students who attended the events took with them that Africans of the African Diaspora (this includes, African-Americans, Continental Africans, Africans of the Caribbean and Latin countries and other places) are very diverse, beautiful and unique people and we have a strong common bond that connects us — that is our African roots which is a large part of who we are,” she said.

Archived article by Sun Staff