Today begins the annual month-long celebration of the people, events and history of the black community. The university is offering a variety of performances and speakers to help honor everyone from MLK to today’s heroes of Katrina.
Throughout the month students will hear a speaker debate the power of offensive words, watch a documentary on the state of New Orleans, attend an African spiritual and listen to stories of victims who survived the Rwandan and Holocaust genocides.
“We want people to see a different perspective than what they’ve learned from the history books,” said Javon Baker, a senior speech communication major and president of the student organization Black Definition. “It is not only black history, it’s American history and it’s had a huge influence on our culture.”
Black history first was recognized in 1926 as Negro History Week and later became Black History Month. Dr. Carter G. Woodson, a Harvard educated scholar, is known for taking on the challenge of writing black Americans into history.
Black Definition plans and implements black history programs throughout the year with a strong emphasis during February.
So often people think Black History Month is only about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and George Washington Carver, Baker said.
“Martin Luther King is the first thing I think of when Black History Month pops into my head,” said Matt Whitehead, a junior economics major.
Baker wants to change the focus of the month from figureheads to actual understanding.
“The month is about a lot of people and having a deeper knowledge of the culture,” Baker said. “Everything going on gives people the opportunity to become well-rounded.”
Aaron Madonna, a junior sociology major and marketing coordinator at Black Student Services, is especially excited about Blane Harding’s presentation “The Power of Offensive Words: ‘Niggers, Coons, Boys and Tigresses.'” Harding is director of advising and recruiting for the College of Liberal Arts and will speak about various words that have been used to degrade, insult and hold down black people.
“He is really good speaker who doesn’t sugarcoat his words, he directly speaks to the audience,” Madonna said. “The whole month in general looks like it has a lot of interesting programs.”
Madonna is also looking forward to the presentation by Dexter Yarborough, chief of CSUPD, which is entitled “The Untold Truth – African American Men Moving Forward.”
“The speech will state positive stats about African-American men, things they don’t usually talk about in the media,” Madonna said.
Baker agrees the Harding and Yarborough events are big opportunities for people to see a full 360-degree perspective of black people – the good, the bad and the ugly.
“Woodson believed it was a story that wasn’t being told and he felt the need to start educating people,” Baker said. “It was a time for change and he put it into action.”
Other events scheduled include a speech by Byron Motley, son of the Negro Baseball Leagues’ oldest living umpire, a spoken word poet and for the first time, a comedy show.
“The month itself is a time for truth; if more people come out to the programs, it will help their own lives,” Baker said. “Everybody can take something from these programs.”
Staff writer Brian Park can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
? Thursday Feb. 1 – Keynote speaker Nevil Shed from the movie “Glory Road”
6:30 p.m., Lory Student Center Theatre
? Wednesday Feb. 7 – “The Negro Baseball Leagues, an American Legacy” presented by Byron Motley, 6 p.m., LSC Room 230
? Saturday Feb. 10 – Comedy Show featuring Damon Williams, 7 p.m., LSC Theatre
? Thursday Feb. 15 – “The Untold Truth: African American Men Moving Forward” presented by Dexter Yarborough, chief of CSUPD, 7 p.m., LSC Theatre
? Monday Feb. 19 – “The Power of Offensive Words: ‘Niggers, Coons, Boys and Tigresses,'” 1 p.m., LSC Room 220-222
? Tuesday Feb. 27 – “Voices of Survival: Stories from victims of the Rwandan and Holocaust massacres.” 7 p.m., LSC Theatre