February is Black History Month and it is quickly coming to an end. To celebrate the strong, powerful leaders that are at the root of this history, events like Black Jeopardy, TED Talks and dance workshops have been held throughout the month by multiple organizations on campus. The Black Student Union, African Students Association, Ethiopian-Eritrean Student Association, Caribbean Students Council and Black Lives Matter organization all contributed to make these programs a success.
On Wednesday, Feb. 21, there was a general body meeting discussing “Intersectionality: The Diaspora” in Physics 101. The purpose of the talk was to allow people from different backgrounds to share their experiences in America and how the mixture of their identities affects their everyday lives.
Junior Health Administration and Public Policy major, Jessica Linus, gave a compelling introduction. She started with a brief overview of some of Africa’s richest moments in history. She also discussed how these same rich moments are usually not included in the lessons we are taught as young children. She ended her introduction with a quote by Steven Biko that states, “Being black isn’t a matter of pigmentation — being black is a reflection of mental attitude.”
Linus is also making a conscious effort to work with UMBC on bringing African language studies to our class offerings. Even though she is facing some barriers with faculty she believes that it is important for UMBC to recognize, “the benefit in not only having a diverse population, but [also] creating cross-cultural experiences and investing in the African diasporic community by expanding the languages taught at UMBC.” For anyone who would like more information on this project, go to https://www.gofundme.com/african-parade-of-cultures.
The hosts of this event were both members of the Ethiopian-Eritrean Students Association. Jerry Gebremeskel, a junior Health Administration and Public Policy major, and Nahum Meherete, a senior Computer Science major, asked engaging questions that broke off into very eye-opening discussions. Students in the room all shared stories from their past and it was captivating to see how many people shared similar experiences.
Even though some opinions were not as agreed upon as others, everyone seemed to genuinely respect each other’s words. It was clear that every student in the room enjoyed the fact that they could openly share their thoughts without having to worry about being judged or looked at differently by their peers. It was a safe space made so that everyone could share as much or as little as they please.
Chizitere Odidika, a junior communications and technology major, frequents Black Student Union and African Students Association meetings. She thinks, “it is very important for all campuses to have organizations that are specifically formed for people of color, especially at a PWI [Predominantly White Institutions]. It was nice that they had multiple events throughout the month that catered to everyone’s interests.”
The last event celebrating Black History Month takes place on Feb. 28. A Black Student Union general body meeting on “Abuse vs. Discipline” will be held during free hour in Physics 101 for anyone who is interested. Future events held by any of these organizations are publicized on myUMBC.