Celebrating Black History Month

University Celebrates Black History Month

The University began the celebration of Black History Month by hosting a performance of King’s Dream, presented by Key Arts Productions, in Pollak Theatre on Wednesday, Jan. 30   

The performance is a multi-media live presentation that offers a moving tribute to Dr. Martin Luther, Jr., the Nobel Peace Prize recipient who led America’s peaceful revolution for equal rights for all during the Civil Rights era. It tells the story of an American civil rights movement that is dramatic, powerful, and inspirational.

The Key Arts Productions of Philadelphia explains that in the performance, “The [Civil Rights] era is explained and comes alive with songs, thought provoking live commentary, and captivating integrated video projection in this innovative traveling performance piece.” 

Events throughout the month will be coordinated by the Monmouth University Black Student Union and Tashir Hampton, Assistant Director of Student Activities, to celebrate and honor Black history in America. 

“What I like students to get out of this event is the notion that the struggle still goes on, the fight for civil rights still goes on, and that Dr. King can and has inspired us all to keep up the fight and work together for peace,” said Joseph Patterson, President and Artistic Director at Key Arts Productions. “The college students were very much a part of the modern civil rights movements of the 50’s and 60’s and even today. This program hopefully will inspire young people here at Monmouth to make a difference.” 

February celebrates the sacrifices and achievements of African-Americans from the past to present. This commemoration includes individuals and organizations such as the Black Panther Party, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, Jackie Robinson, Muhummad Ali, Martin Luther King, Jr., among many others.

Hampton believes that the University is focused on increasing the diversity and inclusion on campus and making sure that students enrolled feel welcome and a part of the community.

“In my experience the students I have talked to do feel welcomed and a lot of them being club leaders, at least that I talk to in my role, are really passionate about putting on these programs. We want to make sure that every student, regardless of their background, feels welcomed, supported, and represented,” he said.

Zoriah Fowler, a senior social work student and President of the University’s Black Student Union, felt that the importance of this event on campus would remind students in a predominantly white community that the dream still is a work in progress.

“There is still injustice, discrimination, and racism prevalent all over the country and we need to be reminded that we have to work harder than other institutions to ensure that the students who attended understand that this isn’t a place where that behavior should be tolerated,” she said.

She continued and explained, “While we can’t govern everyone’s actions it helps to remind everyone that just because it does not affect you, it may affect others and you should be accountable for your actions.”

Fowler looks for students to gain an understanding of what past leaders have experienced and endured to give everyone the platform to advocate for a cause.

“At that time, black people could not speak freely about injustice with risks of being attacked. Now more than ever we can speak up and call others out on their ignorance,” she said.

Fowler continued, “We do not want to be segregated and we want others to understand that you do not have to be black, Hispanic, or any specific group of people to support our cause. We want to support everyone, and we would love the support of everyone.”

The Black Student Union is made up of 25 students from various backgrounds. This past Friday, the organization hosted their annual flag raising ceremony which took place behind Wilson Hall.

The opening ceremony was followed by a reception in Magill Commons featuring public speaker and educator Akeem Lloyd.

Lloyd believes that it is important to recognize Black History Month because, “To understand the past of America, is to understand Black History in America. To experience 400 years of physical abuse, systematic racism, bigotry, oppression, Jim Crow, and to act like it never happened is inhuman,” he said.

“Recognizing Black History at Monmouth University, and anywhere else in the U.S. is important because it allows us to tell our history,” Lloyd stated. “I wanted students to reflect on where they are in life and to know that if it is no where they want to be, today was the day to get closer to their goals.”

The Black Student Union is currently working with the Student Activities Board to create more events throughout February and will lower the African-American flag at the end of the month.

PHOTO COURTESY of Monmouth University