Mount Holyoke celebrates Black History Month

BY ALLYSON HUNTOON ’19

In the United States, February is Black History Month, a nationwide celebration that was originally created to honor African American history.

At Mount Holyoke, the community “celebrates Black History Month through programs that honor African and Black American ancestry, recognizing the present and reflecting on the future,” according to the College website. The Mount Holyoke Association of Pan-African Unity (APAU), a student organization, is working with several College departments to organize events that span the length of the month. 

This year, the Black History Month theme at Mount Holyoke is “Sankofa: 400 Years of Black-ism.” According to the College website, the theme “seeks to reflect upon a story 400 years in the making: In 1619, 16 enslaved Africans arrived on the shores of Virginia. So began a long journey of black subjugation, oppression and genocide.” 

APAU is also celebrating the month with a subtheme of “Black to the Future,”  referencing Afrofuturism, a term which the Oxford Living Dictionary defines as “a movement in literature, music, art, etc., featuring futuristic or science fiction themes which incorporate elements of black history and culture.” On this topic, APAU wrote, “How can we use Afrofuturism to write, think, speak, create ourselves into the future? As a people whose history is often occluded or misconstrued, ‘Black to the Future’ uses our past to imagine futures for Black life and expression.” 

On the choice of subtheme, APAU also wrote, “Following the future-oriented approach of Octavia Butler, who used Black characters in her sci-fi masterpieces that imagined new possibilities for Black life, we think through Afrofuturism as a tool that has created a cultural movement which mixes fantasy, history and sci-fi with a ‘socially conscious bend.’” 

They concluded, “We recognize that our ancestors have been imagining futures for us since the first Africans arrived as enslaved people in 1619 and hope to extend Afrofuturism’s call for liberatory thought to all realms of our livelihoods. Looking back to look forward, we are able to explore our possibilities when we go ‘Black to the Future’... where to next?”

Nyasha Franklin ’19, a member of APAU’s Black History Month Committee, said that she has helped plan Black History Month events at Mount Holyoke in the past and is now happy to see how much the College has grown as a partner in hosting this celebration. She said that APAU has been able to collaborate across campus departments, particularly with the help of Associate Dean of Students for Community and Inclusion Latrina Denson and the Office of Student Programs. Franklin said, “It’s super important for us” that College departments share the responsibility of hosting events. This year, she said, “There are more people who want to do something for Black History Month.” She hopes that this enthusiasm continues to develop for other ethnic and cultural group celebrations on campus.

The variety of events taking place this month will be hosted by academic departments, Student Programs, APAU and other groups. This collaboration is exciting to Franklin, and on behalf of the APAU Black History Month Committee, she said, “We want people to come to our events, and we want people to ask professors if they can get extra credit opportunities by attending our events.” She noted that this could further encourage and increase institutional support for the Black History Month celebration.

The following events will be held to celebrate Black History Month 2019 at Mount Holyoke in the coming weeks: 

Feb. 8: “Black to the Future” Afrofuturistic-themed Keychains Workshop (5 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the Makerspace in Prospect)

Feb. 13: “Shooting the Enemy: Impact of Public Enemy’s Music on Current Art and Culture” (7 p.m. at the Betty Shabazz Cultural Center)

Feb. 14: How to Draw an African Super Hero (7 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the Blanchard Great Room)

Feb. 14: Lecture with Dr. Kafui Attoh: “Uber, Public Transit and the Idiocy of the Smart City” (4:30 p.m. in Dwight Hall Room 101) 

Feb. 15: “Black to the Future” Afrofuturistic-themed Keychains Workshop (5 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the Makerspace in Prospect)

Feb. 15: LITS Button Making (3 p.m. in the Williston Library Atrium)

Feb. 16: Stories of Afro-Native Identity (3 p.m. in Blanchard Great Room)

Feb. 21: Poets in Conversation: Danez Smith and Morgan Parker (7 p.m. in Gamble Auditorium)

Feb. 22: Writing Workshop with Morgan Parker and Danez Smith (10 a.m. in Dwight Lounge)

Feb. 23: APAU Cultural and Fashion Show (6 p.m. in the Blanchard Great Room) 

Feb. 27: Ayesha Harruna Attah ’05 Book Talk (7 p.m. in the Blanchard Great Room)

Feb. 28: Dorceta Taylor — Lunch and Discussion with Students of Color Organizations (12 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the Betty Shabazz Cultural Center)

Feb 28: Dorceta Taylor — Discussion of Diversity and Faculty Hiring (Open to Faculty, 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. in Cassani Lounge)

Feb 28: Dorceta Taylor — Building a Campus Coalition for Real Social and Ecological Justice (6:30 p.m. - 9 p.m in the Blanchard Great Room)

All events are free, open (unless otherwise stated) and accessible. For more information and event descriptions, visit mtholyoke.edu/bhm. 

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