February 16, 2012

Cornell Student Organizations Celebrate Black History Month

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In honor of Black History Month, Olin, Uris and Mann Libraries are housing exhibits commemorating the past, and present, of the black community throughout February. The displays are part of a series of projects organized this year by students on the Black History Month committee.

Selamawit Gebre ’14, chair of the BHM committee, said she had the idea for the exhibits last year. In collaboration with Black Students United and Cornell University Black Entertainment, BHM executed her vision this month.

“I didn’t really see anything around commemorating Black History Month in the general community,” Gebre said. “I thought [it would] be cool to see if I could work with the libraries to see if we could do different exhibitions.”

Gebre said she felt the libraries were an ideal setting for the displays because they are highly visible to students. She said that the exhibits were a way for the black community to bring history directly to the students.

“I wanted to inform the Cornell community about the importance of African American history through utilizing high-traffic areas for these posters,” Gebre said. “It’s easier and it attracts more people when you bring things to them.”

Each display highlights a different theme, according to Gebre. One display called “161 Faces of the Cornell Black Experience,” features 161 photographs of black Cornell students and alumni, while another exhibit profiles campus buildings with historical significance to the black community. The displays are decorated with photographs and quotations from black students and alumni.

Malik Mack ’12 publicity chair for CUBE, who designed the exhibits, said Gebre approached him with a clear vision for the exhibits.

“If you look at all the designs, they’re all totally different in terms of their layout and in terms of color schemes, but they all present a similar theme of black history,” Mack said. “[Gebre] really knew what she wanted, so it was pretty much just me transitioning it into reality.”

Susette Newberry, assistant director of research and learning services for the Cornell library, said BSU and CUBE contacted the libraries with their display proposal last semester.

“They came to us with a pretty clear idea of what they wanted to do,” she said. “That signaled to us that they were really organized, on top of things and that they had a very clear focus.”

Newberry said she is interested in making library exhibits an annual part of Black History Month.

“I think they did a great job,” Newberry said. “It’s a nice example of how students really wanted to bring their message to the library and involve the library in highlighting the things that are really important to their organization’s mission.”

The University also celebrates Black History Month with events throughout the month, according to Gebre, with themed dinners held in dining halls across campus.

“Every Black History Month we highlight different cuisines from different areas,” such as the Caribbean, East Africa and West Africa, Gebre said.

According to Gebre, the BHM committee’s final event will take place at the beginning of March to symbolize that the commemoration of black history does not stop at the end of the month.

“Black history is not limited to Februrary,” he said.

Original Author: Caroline Simon