On Tuesday, Feb. 2, United Black Students, in coalition with the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs, kicked off their annual Black Awareness Month (B.A.M.) by inviting students to “Wake up.”
Wake up to what exactly?
“It depends what you want it to mean,” said junior psychology major and B.A.M. chair Courtney Cross-Johnson. “Wake up and learn your history, wake up and learn about issues on campus.”
For black students, February has come to be about more than history; it is about awareness and enlightenment.
“[The month-long festivities are about] letting the campus know we’re here,” Cross-Johnson said. “We do talk about history but with diversity including people from the Caribbean, Africa, etc.”
This multilateral perspective on black culture is exactly what Professor Edmond Abaka, director of Africana studies at the University of Miami, thinks is important for students to take away from these events.
He would like B.A.M to “encourage students to look in to history, to understand the black experience on a global scale.”
Abaka helped in inviting the evening’s guest speaker, Dr. Thabiti Asukile, a professor of African-American studies at the University of Cincinnati. Asukile’s presentation focused mainly on less prominent blacks who played vital roles in the advancement of black people through the spread of jazz music to Europe in the 1930s and 40s.
The main point of his presentation was to focus on the lesser-known stories of blacks who were prominent but have since been somewhat forgotten.
“Even though we have the internet there’s so much we don’t know about the African Diaspora, about how they’re treated,” Asukile said.
New this year to B.A.M is a forum entitled “In Search of Our Fathers,” a session to discuss fatherlessness in the black community.
“Fatherlessness isn’t something that solely affects the black community but it greatly affects the black community,” said junior motion pictures major and Chair of the forum Rae Williams.
The forum will consist of a panel made up of students and faculty members alike that will discuss questions posed to them by Professor Abaka.
Williams organized a diverse group to serve on the panel, ranging from students on campus who are fathers, faculty members who are fathers and students who either grew up with or without their fathers.
Williams hopes this topic will be of interest to the entire university community.
“It’s important to be aware of the problems. As college students it is up to us to make a change. For us to be aware that it is a problem and that it has become to be almost accepted,” said Williams.
It is clear that these events certainly do translate to other cultures among the university community. Eric Hurley, a junior majoring in electronic media, stumbled upon Dr. Asukile’s talk Tuesday night, and was thrilled because of his love of jazz music, but he ended up learning a little something more.
“I was enlightened to the democratic power of jazz music, and the fact that it was a gateway to tolerance of culture,” Hurley said.
This new realm of knowledge is exactly what United Black Students President Christine Nanan hopes students will get out of B.A.M.
“We just want people to learn something they didn’t know before; about the campus or the world in general,” she said.
The assortment of events ensures that there is something for everyone during Black Awareness Month.
“You don’t have to be black to celebrate with us,” said Cross-Johnson.
For more information on events during BAM visit themiamihurricane.com.
Lindsay Perez may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.