By Abby Wargo
February is here, and Washington College is celebrating Black History Month with a series of events hosted by several different campus groups.
“Having events and a month long of programming at a predominantly white institution that is trying to be more diverse is important because we have to cater to the students that we have here but we also have to educate the ones that have been here…we have to start being more accommodating to [students of color],” said Jocelyn Elmore, senior and president of the Black Student Union.
Black History Month is an annual celebration of black Americans’ achievements, which have historically gone unrecognized in history books and classrooms.
“Every day is a white history day, so one month out of the year is our time to really put emphasis on other people who have helped build this nation,” Elmore said. “I personally think it shouldn’t just be one month, but it is, so this is our time to really show the school and help people become more educated,” she said.
“We have to appreciate our ancestors and what they went through in order for us to be where we are today. I think it’s always important to celebrate the accomplishments of MLK and Harriet Tubman and people like that because they paved the way for us,” said Erneatka Webster, BSU advisor and associate director of student financial aid.
The month kicked off on Feb 1 with a silent disco, hosted by BSU and Cleopatra’s Sisters, in the Egg.
On Monday, Dining Services and BSU hosted the kickoff dinner, serving culturally significant foods like fried fish, mac and cheese, glazed ham, jerk chicken tacos, and fried plantains.
Today, BSU and Shore Steppers are hosting an African workout dance class in the Johnson Fitness Center at 7 p.m.
“African dance is another way to highlight African culture. We look at African dance as similar to exercise, as a way to relieve stress and energize ourselves, and just bring in cultural awareness of African dance,” Webster said.
BSU’s alumni mixer will take place this Saturday, Feb. 8, in Hynson Lounge from 12-3 p.m. Raymond Cummings, WC alumna and nephew of the late Elijah Cummings, will be speaking at the event.
Students will have an opportunity to socialize and network with alumni, who are often deterred from coming back to campus due to bad experiences.
“Most of our alums don’t really come back as often, but their experiences are just as important,” Elmore said.
“It’s great to have them here for inspiration and to network,” she said. “It’s good for our members to connect with them and build connections.”
“Our goal is for them to see the different things that BSU is doing here, and to show them, too, that the campus is not what it was when they graduated, that we’re changing the culture, we’re changing diversity, we’re building on a more inclusive campus,” Webster said.
On Feb 11, there will be a debriefing session from the groundwater racial equity training session that was held on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day at Sumner Hall at 6 p.m.
BSU is hosting a trap and paint night, a paint night with trap music playing, in the Egg on Feb 12 at 6:30 p.m.
On Feb 14, the Writing Center is hosting a transcribe-a-thon for Frederick Douglass Day at the Writing Center, located in Goldstein 106, from 12:30-3:30 p.m.
BSU’s WOKEshop, a workshop geared toward students, will be Feb 17 at 6:30 p.m. in the Egg. Three guest speakers, among them Doncella Wilson and Paul Tue, will discuss the differences between cultural appropriation and appreciation.
“That’s just meant to give the students the opportunity to understand ways to deal with racial biases and also how to address the gaps between enjoying and participating in black culture but still having that stigma of discriminating the black community,” Webster said.
The event is meant to continue conversations about race that began last semester after the cancellation of the play “The Foreigner” due to concerns about the portrayal of the Ku Klux Klan and a series of racial bias incidents. The WOKEshop is a less formal iteration of the recent groundwater training held on MLK Day. It will discuss racism through the lens of cultural material students can more directly relate to, such as sports and music.
“That’s what we’re trying to do: where is the gap, how do we learn from things that have happened and how do we go from there in order to build a more diverse campus, to build on diversity and unity,” Webster said. “Unity is community.”
Sumner Hall is hosting an African American read-in at 5 p.m. on Feb 18.
On Feb 20 at 6 p.m., the Black Studies Program is sponsoring a screening of the documentary film “I Am Not Your Negro,” directed by Raoul Peck and based on an unfinished manuscript by James Baldwin, in Norman James Theatre.
One week later in Norman James, the BSU is sponsoring a screening of “Harriet,” directed by Kasi Lemmons and starring Cynthia Erivo, beginning at 7 p.m.
The final Black History Month event, on Feb 29, is a field trip. BSU is taking up to 42 students to the Arden Theatre in Philadelphia to see the play “My General Tubman.” The bus will depart from the Casey Academic Center at 10 a.m. Tickets are limited, so they are first come, first served.
All of the events are open to any student regardless of race or ethnicity.
“We all have the same goal: representing WC. In order for us to do that well, we have to do it together,” Webster said.