Slew of events planned for Black History Month

A number of events are taking place this February on the Queens campus to celebrate Black History Month, and after the recent inauguration of Barack Obama as president, students say they are more enthused to learn about African American history than in past years.

“To me, Obama kind of gave that extra push,” said senior Deidre Sears, a member of Haraya, the Pan-African Student Coalition, and a committee chair on the Caribbean Students Association.

Senior Jason Black, director of Activities for CSA, agreed.

“It just shows change, and that’s why Obama is on all of the Black History Month advertisements,” he said. “It shows that now we’re heading into a new era. It shows opportunity, that we’re slowly accomplishing goals and ways to break down barriers.”

Nashia Whittenburg, assistant director of Multicultural Affairs within Student Life, helped organize the events that are planned for Black History Month and, like many of the students, has noticed a renewed energy and interest in the events in the wake of Obama’s inauguration.

“In past years I’ve walked around and seen ads for our events on the ground or scattered around,” she said. “This year, with the beautiful Obama image on them, I haven’t seen any, so I know people are picking them up.”

Like in past years, Whitenburg helped plan the events for Black History Month alongside the Black History Month Committee – a group of 20 students, many of them active members in Haraya.

In all, there are 19 events planned throughout Feb. in honor of Black History Month.

There have already been four events, and the reception has been positive so far.

“I was anticipating low numbers for the first event, but we had a fairly decent turnout for Groove,” Whittenburg said. “It might be because the coffeehouse series has been set in stone by Campus Activities, so that has gained a lot of momentum.”

Groove, held on Saturday Feb. 7 in the UC Storm Center, featured various poets, and was sponsored in conjunction with Campus Activities.

Other upcoming events include the MLK Dinner on Thursday, Feb. 19 in Marillac Terrace and the “South Africa Benefit Concert: What Makes Your Heart Bleed?” on Saturday, Feb. 21.

Many students seem enthused about the upcoming panel discussion, called “Terminology; Black or African American,” which is set to be held on Feb. 11 in Council Hall at 5 p.m.

“To be able to sit down and see everyone’s opinion on the word ‘black’ and what other people feel about that word, not only just African Americans, but people of other races and cultures, is so interesting,” Sears said.

Whittenburg added that the panel discussion has received some of the most buzz of any of the events.

“I’ve gotten a lot of e-mail correspondence about the panel discussion,” she said. “It’s a pretty hot topic. I’ve gotten calls from alumni, media relations, different entities on campus wanting promotional matierials, wanting to know what’s going on. We have so much interaction with faculty – that’s what really makes the difference. Faculty will be participating in the two different panels.”

Junior Jose Bererra thinks the events planned this year are interesting, and he plans on attending a few.

“I always try to get involved in activities no matter their affiliation,” he said. “I’m more inclined to go to a Black History Month event.”