‘Difficult Conversations’: Black History Month Observed at BW

‘Difficult Conversations’: Black History Month Observed at BW

Throughout February, the Center for Inclusion and the Black Student Alliance honored Black History Month by organizing various events and running social media campaigns to educate students about the importance of knowing about Black history and the struggle of Black Americans. 

“Until the experiences, contributions, celebration, and acknowledgment of [Black] culture is fully normalized, we have to do things like Black History Month [to] raise awareness,” C.J. Harkness, chief diversity officer, said. 

During this month, among other things, a program called “Black + Mental Health + Matters” was coordinated and an online profile of BW graduate James Lawson, a leading strategist and advisor for Martin Luther King, was posted under 2022 Stories in the News & Events section on the BW website. 

Harkness said that having conversations about race are vital for all students “no matter what your discipline is, to understand how we got to some of the beliefs and thought processes that we go to.”  

Harkness said students can stay educated on Black history by looking at present issues and seeking out how those issues came to be. For example, there is a disproportionately high rate of African Americans at or below the poverty line that are incarcerated compared to the rate of African Americans that enter higher education.  

“Is that simply something that we reduce to character?” Harkness said, “Or do we look at policy, structure, the criminal justice system itself, and have those conversations?”  

He said a challenge of this era is making sure we acknowledge factual events as part of the country, and BW’s overall past, rather than an alternate version of history.  

Senior Ruvimbo Mareya, president of the Black student alliance, said that the conversation of Black history and inclusion should continue throughout the year because Black history and news that affects Black citizens is being made daily.  

“Even in other months, there are things happening every day,” Mareya said. “Whether it is a court case, waiting on a grand jury, or unfortunately another tragedy.”  

She said a good ally to the Black community does their research, asks questions about perspectives they cannot understand, and are willing to have “deep and dark conversations.”  

“There is only so much people of color can do to get this information out to as many people as possible,” Mareya said. “[Black Americans] are a small number in this country, and it’s going to take more than just us to make any changes.” 

The school will offer students opportunities to celebrate Black history and inclusion even as the month wraps up.  

BW will be hosting Kevin Richardson, an exonerated member of the so-called Central Park Five, to speak about his experiences on March 3 at 7 p.m. in the Kleist Center. Tickets are free but must be reserved online.  

According to Ericka Walker-Smith, director of inclusion programs, the Center for Inclusion plans programming events for diversity education, cultural celebrations, and dialogues throughout the year.  

She said students are welcome to drop in to have a conversation and she encourages them to be aware of events and participate as much as possible.  

Students can follow the Center of Inclusion on Instagram at @bwcenterforinclusion and the Black Student Alliance at @bwbsa for more information and updates about events.