- Category: Volume 87 (Fall 2015 - Spring 2016)
- Published: 17 February 2016
- Written by ANNA BLAINE | STAFF WRITER
Although winter is not officially over yet, during the month of February there is still cause for celebration in recognition of Black History Month. Black History Month is not only about acknowledging the achievements of black inventors or Civil Rights leaders, it encompasses culture, pride, patriotism and humanity - something that is inherently human.
This year marked the 50th Anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s visit to the University. King’s dream of disbanding segregation and embracing diversity was still not shared by everyone at the time.
In fact, his speech was not well received at the University when he spoke in front of a seemingly conservative audience, a majority of them white faculty and students, on Oct. 6, 1996. The issues that he spoke about concerning segregation, poverty, the racially motivated killings down South, and the Vietnam War touched a nerve that made some people uncomfortable.
Nevertheless, King’s speech and presence were both timeless. He transformed the University and established principles that deeply reverberate on campus to this day.
The words that he spoke during his visit were reminiscent of his “I Have a Dream” speech; revolutionary in so many ways that a plaque in Wilson Hall was made in honor of his historic stop in West Long Branch. Black History Month is about cementing a legacy, and Martin Luther King Jr. did that the day he spoke on this campus.
During this semester, there is a wide range of events and discussions that involve something pertaining to black history or the issue of race. One of the discussions that has been prevalent since last year is whether or not Woodrow Wilson’s name should be removed from Wilson Hall because there is evidence implying that the 28th President was racist.
It has been a major topic of debate on campus among students and faculty. Many worry that it could be a stain on the legacy of the University; a legacy that has been maintained since the college opened and King’s rousing speech in 1966 marked that significant moment.
On a positive note, The African American Student Union (AASU) at the University is very active in promoting events that have to do with black history.
On Feb. 11, they hosted a “Pitch Black Party” in Anacon Hall to celebrate music influenced by black artists and invite college students out.
“The party was really a way of introducting people to Black History Month and the African American Student Union. Immediately following the party we had a movie screening of Dear White People,” said Arianna Gordon, a senior health studies major and President of AASU.
Just as the campus itself is rich in history, so is the surrounding community. “This area of Monmouth County has certainly seen its share of black history, spanning from the Revolutionary War until the present. One of the more noteworthy events of political unrest was the rioting in Asbury Park during July of 1970 that brought national attention to the Jersey shore,” explained Nicole DeSanctis, an Adjunct in the History and Anthropology Department at the University.
New Jersey has always been a place of opportunity, DeSanctis continued to explain. “On our own campus, Wilson Hall was designed with the help of Julian Abele, the first African-American professional architect”
No matter what happens at the University that makes us question the legacy of the college, there is still a conscious effort to externalize the message of freedom, justice and equality.
There is still an attempt to live up to the humanity that Black History Month represents. In the words of Thurgood Marshall, “In recognizing the humanity of our fellow beings, we pay ourselves the highest tribute.”
IMAGE TAKEN from chicagonow.com