- Category: Volume 88 (Fall 2016 - Spring 2017)
- Published: 08 February 2017
- Written by MEHDI HUSAINI | ASSISTANT NEWS EDITOR
The annual commemoration of Black History Month has commenced with a noticeable decrease in events co-hosted by the African American Student Union (AASU), the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW), and the Office of Student Activities in comparison to past years.
According to a flyer released to the student body on Jan. 26, there will be four main events throughout the month of February: a flag ceremony, a forum, a trivia night, and a jeopardy game.
Comparing emails from past years, events for Black History month established with the sponsorship of the Office of Student Activities have dwindled significantly. In 2015 for example, an email was sent to all students and faculty by the Office of Student Activities, detailing more than a dozen events ranging from speeches by activists, film screenings, and more. Another email sent by Student Activities in 2016, listed eight events that they co-sponsored for the month. This Black History Month, however, the office co-sponsored only one event.
According to Joseph Johnson, a junior criminal justice student and Vice President of AASU, the University hosted two events for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, but left the majority of February’s planning to AASU and NCNW.
“As an African American who goes to a predominantly white institution, Black History Month should be a main priority for the University. Due to the lack of diversity and minority clubs on campus, it becomes difficult for members of clubs like the African American Student Union to organize events, plan gatherings and prepare forums with little to no assistance from the University,” said Johnson.
According to Mary Anne Nagy, Vice President of Student Life and Leadership, a committee had existed around the time of the “more organized emails” that oversaw the larger-scale events for the commemoration of Black History Month. According to her, the committee has since dissolved. This may be a contributing factor to the decrease in reported centralized programming.
She said, “I don’t think there’s any particular reason [for the organizing committee dissolving],” said Nagy, citing that time and personnel fluctuations may have caused it. She advocated for a more widespread approach that integrates diversity and racial integration into all parts of the Monmouth community, both academic and extracurricular.
“In order for us to be the best version of ourselves as a University, we need to centralize [the programming],” said Claude Taylor, Advisor-in-Residence for Academic Transition and Inclusion. “In conversation, people are talking about proposals to institute a kind of multicultural center or an office that is the engine behind all the programming so that it is consistently produced year in and year out.”
“I remember when my sister attended Monmouth, she used to tell me that the events of [Black History Month] were the talk of the town,” said Akintunde Obafemi, a senior health studies student. “I couldn’t tell you what the source of the problem is but it is unfortunate and downright concerning that people either do not know or simply do not care.”
“Events that are racially-oriented are almost always hosted by the clubs that cater toward that specific race. Sometimes it feels like if we don’t do it then no one will, which of course is horrible,” said Obafemi, referring to the recent effects of decentralized programming. According to him, minority groups, like AASU, are left to bear the burden of hosting a month’s worth of events due to the lack of support.
According to Johanna Foster, Director of the Sociology Program, it is important that the University properly commemorate Black History Month. “Most folks have quite a number of blind spots [around] the extent to which African American history is American history,” she said. “The marginalization of African American history is part of the continuation of racism in the United States.”
Foster further explained the need for productive forums for discussion about race and diversity in American history is essential to the resolution of issues of race on campus.
Taylor also asserts that there is much to be done. “All of us here [at Monmouth] are so focused on the education…that we don’t necessarily open up time and space for the other parts of what we do in the community to nurture our time together,” said Taylor, “We have work to do.”