Black History Month kicks off Wednesday, and many organizations at the university are sponsoring observances in honor of Black History Month.
“Black History Month has become an important part of our yearly calendar,” Gail Stratton, reverend of the Unitarian Universalist Church, said. “It is an opportunity for many to learn about black history, still neglected in most of history telling.”
Black History Month was established in 1915 by Carter G. Woodson, who had chosen February to coincide with birthdays of two great Americans who had influenced black lives the most– Frederick Douglas and Abraham Lincoln.
Organizations like the Center for Inclusion and Cross Cultural Engagement, Black Student Union and the Office of Provost/Multicultural Affairs are also involved in the upcoming events.
The opening celebration will be held at 4 p.m. Wednesday at Fulton Chapel. The UM Gospel Choir will perform, Katrina Caldwell, the new vice chancellor for diversity and inclusion and Judith Meredith, wife of James Meredith and professor of mass communications at Jackson State University, will speak, and the “Lift Every Voice” awards ceremony will take place.
This month will include very informal discussions such as “Digital Activism: How to Leverage Social Media for #BlackLives,” “When the South Still Got Something to Say: A Conversation about Hip-Hop in the South,” “Dr. Bill Bynum: Poverty and Mobility in Mississippi” and “Black Women Matter” dialogue series.
The Black Student Union’s fourth annual Black History Month Gala will be 6 p.m. Friday at the Inn at Ole Miss.
President of the National Pan-Hellenic Council Terrye Davis said she is excited about the upcoming Black History Month events.
“A lot of organizations are putting in a lot of effort to embrace who we are, who we come from and honor those who have come before us,” Davis said. “We want to help everyone else on campus become more aware of our presence and heritage which is what Black History Month is all about.”
Terrius Harris, president of the Black Student Union, said the BSU’s role during Black History Month is to successfully execute the programs they have planned but also support others throughout the month.
“We work to ensure a wide array of knowledge is gained about Black History Month and black culture by all students attending the university,” Harris said. “As an African-American student at a PWI (predominately white institution), I definitely feel as if minorities face unique challenges when ensuring their voice is heard on campus.”
Professor of music and McDonnell-Barksdale chair of ethnomusicology, George Worlasi Kwasi Dor, said he believes freedom and diversity are important during this month.
“If we are talking about humanity, there is something called cosmopolitanism; it is a broad idea of what people across the globe what they need, freedom, diversity, love and all those things. It doesn’t matter where you come from,” Dor said.
Stratton said she feels strongly about the true meaning of Black History Month.
“What we have not yet reckoned with is the trauma of dehumanization of African-Americans over centuries, a collective trauma that will not heal without it shining a light on it,” Stratton said.
This month-long celebration will commemorate African-Americans in history at Ole Miss as well.
“I’m hoping the impact will be bigger this year because the black community is more confident and comfortable in voicing opinions, creating space for understanding and empathizing with people from different walks of life,” Davis said.