NEXUS- “a connection, tie or link between individuals of a group, members of a series etc.”
Nexus is the theme of this year’s University of Miami’s festivities for Black Awareness Month [BAM] 2002.
United Black Students [UBS]-the student organization in charge of the month-long of events coinciding with National Black History Month-decided they wanted to include other non-African cultural institutions on campus. Their object is to involve as many people as possible in the celebrations, organizers said.
“We’re trying to bring everyone together,” said Ian Adams, UBS Vice President.
UBS asked a number of other student organizations, such as the Organization for Jamaican Unity, Caribbean Students Association, Multicultural Student Affairs and the Council of International Student Organizations on campus to help with the preparations for BAM.
They made a conscious effort to involve black students from Caribbean countries, Adams said.
“They felt they were not being represented,” Adams said.
“We want BAM to be about more than just African-Americans. We want to include all black people.”
Caribbean Day is planned for Feb. 19.
“This is the most packed calendar for Black HIstory Month-there are only five days without events,” Adams said.
Every Saturday during the month there is a party planned, culminating in Black Homecoming Weekend, where black UM alumni get together with current students.
The recognition of this cultural month has been a long-standing tradition here at UM since 1967.
In recognition of Black History Month, Baswell and Shekina Donaldson-a couple dedicated to educating people about African history-installed an exhibition, titled The Liberators, portraying a timeline of African history in the UC lounge.They have used the exhibition as an educating tool all over the country.
It included pictures, photos and information concerning various prominent African leaders and dignitaries such as Jesse L. Jackson, Thurgood Marshall, Nelson Mandella and Martin Luther King Jr. who have all made invaluable contributions to the African culture.
Mr. Donaldson announced at the BAM opening ceremony that Black Awareness Month does not have to stop in February but that the African culture should be experienced all year round.
The BAM opening ceremony, held on Friday, Feb. 1, attracted a large number of people from all backgrounds and was attended by various UM cultural organizations. Friday’s unannounced rainfall brought the event into the UC Lounge.
UM President Shalala and members of the faculty and alumni as well as interested students were present to admire the traditional African clothes and enjoying the music.
The guest speaker for the occasion was Mr. Kai Oginga, a full time performance artist and student who is working towards a Ph.D. in African Studies.
Oginga enthralled the audience with his speech on the importance and reasons for Black History Month.
“We are black and we are proud,” was the message Oginga delivered.
He talked of the slavery and the historical segregation and discrimination of Africans world-wide.
“Until every American history book is re-written to reflect the true contribution of Africans and African-Americans to this country and until colleges and universities implement multicultural approaches to educating their students, there will always be a need for Black History Month,” he said.
“It was a great to see how far we have come and how our predecessors fought for what they believed in. It was an eye opener and I had an amazing time,” said freshman Cherrer Ancenor.
However, the highlight of the opening ceremonies was the traditional African dances performed by Mr. Oginga and his dance troupe, on-lookers said. Colorful costumes, beaded jewelry and traditional African drumbeats made it a spectacular show.
It was a truly rewarding experience and was interesting to learn about a culture and history so different from mine. And the dances were brilliant!” freshman Dana Suryakanth.
“The best thing about it was that a lot of people actually came. We put a lot of hard work into it,” Adams said.
Plaques were presented to the Chair of the Opening Ceremonies, Hanan Hamed, and to President Shalala by the exhibitors Mr. and Mrs. Donaldson, in honor of their contribution towards this year’s celebrations.
Students can pick up a flyer listing all the BAM events for the month at the front desk in the University Center.
For more information contact UBS at 305-284-2583.
“Get ready! It’s going to be bigger and better this year,” said Kerrol Nelson, UBS President.