February is Black History Month, and student organizations and departments at the College have been working hard to bring a diverse lineup of events to the campus. With topics ranging from hip-hop to Afro-Caribbean culture to the famed legacy of the Negro Baseball League, the College’s Black History Month programming aims to educate, entertain and raise cultural awareness.
Sankofa, formerly known as the African-American Culture Awareness Association or AACAA, is the student organization in charge of student-oriented events for the month. The name Sankofa is an Akan word which means “looking back to move forward” – a representation of the organization’s mission to provide programming that reflects the history and accomplishments of all groups within the African Diaspora.
Of the name change, Sankofa President Yukela Williams, junior communication studies major, said, “we recognize that not everyone (within the African Diaspora) is black or African-American, and we want our programming to reflect that.”
Part of the way in which Sankofa aims to reflect the diversity present among students of color at the College is by sponsoring events with other cultural organizations, such as Uni?n Latina and Chi Upsilon Sigma Sorority. These events include a showing of the documentary “When the Spirits Dance Mambo,” which is about the impact of Afro-Cuban religions in Cuba and internationally.
A lecture by City University of New York professor Marta Moreno Vega will connect West and Central African traditions to current cultural practices in the Americas.
Zeta Phi Beta Sorority is sponsoring “A History of Stepping.” Sankofa, Chi Upsilon Sigma and the College’s chapter of the National Council of Negro Women are cosponsoring a lecture on “The Politics of Black Hair and Beauty.”
The second week of February is also AIDS Awareness Week, sponsored by the Black Student Union (BSU) and Sankofa. The opening ceremony will be held Monday in Brower Student Center and will feature a guest speaker who is living with the virus, a gospel choir and a flow dance team. AIDS awareness wristbands, condoms and information pamphlets will also be distributed.
On Feb. 7, which is National Black AIDS/HIV day, free HIV/AIDS testing will be held in Brower room 202. Next Thursday, BSU and Sankofa will be hosting “Let’s Talk About AIDS,” a short film and discussion of AIDS in the black community.
The office of Equity and Diversity, along with several other departments, has also sponsored programming for Black History Month.
Jerusalem T. Howard, director of Equity and Diversity, said planning for Black History Month began about six months ago and included representatives from the offices of Campus Activities and Career Services, the Educational Opportunity Fund and Sankofa.
“The planning group wanted to make Black History Month a celebration for all members of (the College) community,” Howard said. “(This) was made possible by having many different partners of (the College) community work together to make the celebration a great success.”
Events include a historical lecture on the Negro Baseball League on Feb. 13, a discussion of legal issues in higher education on Feb. 15, a day of programming about how to start and grow your own business on Feb. 22, a discussion of the church in the black community on Feb. 23 and a panel on Rosa Parks on March 1.
Black History Month will conclude with a closing ceremony and cultural night on Wednesday, March 1 in Brower Student Center.
The theme this year is “Celebrating Community: A Tribute to Black Fraternal, Social and Civic Institutions.”
The event will feature performances by the Afro-American-Caribbean drum and dance troupe Kuumba, the College’s Gospel Choir Ministries and appearances by Greek organizations from the College, Rutgers University, Rider University and New Jersey Institute of Technology. The event will also include a free West African cuisine buffet.
For more information go to tcnj.edu/blackhistory.