This month, the Resource Center, the Office of Equity and Inclusion, the Office of Student Involvement (OSI), and the Black Student Union (Ujamaa), along with the greater University community, came together to celebrate Black History Month through a variety of events, initiatives, and performances, all of which highlight the richness and importance of Black culture.
In addition to the various offices which help coordinate events, the 2023 Black History Month Committee worked hard to plan the programming. Members of the committee include Ujamaa logistics coordinator Kyla Danquah ’25, Kiarah Young ’23, Director of OSI Joanne Rafferty, Associate Director of OSI Jen Cheng, Director of the Resource Center Demetrius Colvin, Associate Director of the Resource Center Kiara Ruesta-Cayetano, Office of Advancement Director of Engagement Cecilia McCall ’91, and Office of Communications Social Media Specialist Anastasia Daniels.
Historically, Black History Month festivities were mainly organized by Ujamaa, but in more recent years, the planning process has broadened to incorporate more faculty and staff in an effort to strengthen institutional support.
The month’s events kicked off with Ujamaa’s Hot Cocoa Night on Wednesday, Feb. 1, providing a time for students to relax and socialize over hot chocolate and desserts. Other events include the 2023 Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration Ceremony on Friday, Feb. 3, Mic Check VII on Saturday, Feb. 11, and several film screenings featured within the Wesleyan Film Series.
“[The Hot Cocoa Night] was a fun way to catch up with people, especially coming back from break,” Shekinah Mba ’26 said. “I had some nice conversations with people. It was pretty relaxing; there was music and some dancing. It was very lively”
Mba also attended the Black History Month Party at Malcolm X House on Saturday, Feb. 4, which was dedicated to the celebration of Black artists and music.
“I got to dress up,” Mba said. “It was just a nice space to dance to Black music. We danced the wobble and the cupid shuffle together, so it was just fun to do that with other people of color on campus.”
The Black Hair Care event, held on Saturday, Feb. 11, was another major event this month. Run by Danquah, the event taught Black students hair care and maintenance for thicker textured and coiled hair, in addition to featuring free hair care and beauty product giveaways.
“We knew that a lot of students didn’t know where to get their hair done,” Danquah said. “There are only a few braiders on campus, so we said, ‘Why don’t we give these products and tutorials to help students learn how to braid hair?’”
Danquah expressed that the event was a success—students came to learn how to maintain protective hairstyles, care for their natural hair, and shave and line haircuts for shorter styles.
“I have braids right now, but I’m a real fan of natural hair when I don’t have protective styles and I think I want to learn new methods to define my curls and also maybe do my own braids as well,” Amari Fontes ’26 said.
Many students, including Fontes, walked away with oils and combs, which they were excited to try out. Overall, Black students have expressed appreciation for the celebrations of the Black diaspora and the creation of celebratory sanctioned spaces at the University for them to enjoy their culture and each other this month.
“It felt nice to see Black people come together,” Mba said. “I’ve always grown up around other Black people, mostly in Black communities, so being at Wes is something that is very new to me because it is a predominantly White institution…it’s very comforting to know that we have a strong Black community on campus, and a strong [person of color] community, where we get to hang out together and have these events and conversations”
Colvin said he believes Black History Month is an important time to revisit underrepresented historical narratives.
“To this day, there are conflicts in American society over how our history is taught, whose history and whose subjective experience is systematically taught versus which ones are just left as anecdotal familial knowledge,” Colvin said. “And so the importance of awareness months like Black History Month is to sometimes expose, sadly for many for the first time, folks to their history because Black history is their history.”
Colvin also said that while Black History Month is mainly a celebration of Black history and culture, it is crucial to also recognize that Black history is American history and that it is part of world history, so it is therefore important for everyone to be informed.
“We should amplify it as much as we possibly can because we’re still in a society where more likely than not, the few scraps of Black history and information that you’ll get from the Black experience is relegated to this month or is relegated to a chapter or two or a class or two as part of a larger semester,” Colvin said. “And so we need to amplify it and keep honoring and celebrating it so that these stories [and] these histories are not forgotten.”
Colvin added that he believes it’s important to educate oneself on Black history and the Black experience.
Upcoming events for Black History Month include a panel discussion called Filmmaking, Biography, & History in Making “Zora Neale Hurston: Claiming a Space” on Wednesday, Feb. 22 about the recent documentary, the Ujamaa Jubilee on Saturday, Feb. 25, the 3rd Annual Ankhsgiving Celebration on Saturday, March 4, and Ilana Harris-Babou’s Liquid Gold Exhibition Artist Talk, an art installation that will remain open through Sunday, March 5 in the Zilkha Gallery.
For the full list of Black History Month events, visit the Office of Equity and Inclusion Black History Month page, found here.
Gabrielle McIntosh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org