Approximately 200 students learned about African heritage through a series of lectures and food last week at Pearson Residential College as part of Black Awareness Month [BAM].
The presentation was primarily sponsored by the History Department and the Phi Alpha Theta History Honor Society
“The event was used to encourage people to think about historical issues and the influence of history,” Lina Delcastillo, secretary for Phi Alpha Theta, said.
“We want students to open their minds and think critically about the present by studying the past,” Chanelle Rose, vice-president for Phi Alpha Theta, said.
During the event, students enjoyed a free sampling of Caribbean and African Cuisine while African dancing played on a television in the background.
Ceci Walker, sophomore, is majoring in African-American studies and says that she attended the event to broaden her insights of African heritage.
“African-American studies has always been an interest of mine,” Walker said. “My dad told me the history when I was very, very young and now I want to pursue it as a career.”
As part of the event, Dr. Robin Bachin gave a lecture entitled “Race, Politics, and Popular Culture in Jazz-Age Chicago.”
Bachin gave students insight into the development of the Jazz and African-American society in Chicago during the 1920s and 30s. She also described how blacks migrated from the South to escape discrimination laws but faced residential segregation when arriving in the North.
Bachin believes the presence of jazz music helped break some of those social blockades as whites and blacks mingled in jazz clubs.
“I hope they’ll get a sense that history still influences questions and controversies we have today,” Bachin said. “I also hope that they will make connections between pop forms like jazz with links to hip-hop.”
Dr. Edmund Abaka, who also presented, integrated humor into his lecture: “Threads that Bind: The African Diaspora in a Global Perspective.” He asked students if they had ever thought about the state of black music in other countries such as China and Russia.
He also discussed the influence and presence of blacks in the Persian Gulf, Asia, Europe and the Middle East.
“History needs not only be taught in the classroom – history should be discussed in other locations,” Abaka said. “Events like this give students the chance to converse in some degree and make history come alive.”
Many students were surprised to find that black slaves existed in places like India.
“It was interesting to see blacks spread out in China and Persia, a dispersion in places you wouldn’t expect to see,” Ashvin Reddy, senior, said.
“I found it interesting to learn about slave trade in China,” Greg Wiaterek, senior, said. “It was an educational experience.”
Organizers hope that students left more educated and interested in aspects of African-American culture and traditions that have affected how the world is currently.
“I hope students have learned something new about African and African-American culture and the African diaspora,” Rose said. “I hope they become enlightened and their curiosity is peaked, and they become interested in issues that indirectly affect them.”
Marquita Bell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.