Black History Month seeks to inspire critical conversations about race


For the month of February, the Black Student Union (BSU) has organized a wide range of events and activities to honor Black History Month. Whether it be group discussions or watching films together, the BSU has worked tirelessly to fill this month with meaningful experiences that not only celebrate the past of African Americans, but also inspire both Black and non-Black students to cultivate a well-informed community of allies.

Working together with other university sponsorships, organizations, and professors, the BSU has created a programming calendar that provides students with a variety of ways to get involved with Black History Month. In the last couple of weeks, professors from the African American Studies Department have given lectures, films like “Straight Outta Compton” have been shown, and the first Black Box Friday took place.

“On Black Box Fridays we pose a question to the campus community with our giant black box in the center entrance of the S.U.B. at noon and allow students, faculty, staff, and visitors to answer,” BSU president and senior Rachel Askew said. “This is the biggest event we hold during [Black History Month] because it is full of interaction.”

On every Friday this month, the BSU calls on students to participate in this process of engagement, and all are invited to debrief with the club and discuss the Black Box questions on Feb. 18, Feb. 25, and March 3.

“I would encourage students to attend all of these events if they desire to learn more about the black experience. Being black is not the sharing of one story, but the sharing of multiple stories that form a history of blackness… It is key to constantly be learning,” Askew said.

Looking forward, there will be spoken word performances by Chaney Sims and Yazmin Monet Watkins held on Feb. 21 at Immanuel Presbyterian Church at 5 p.m. and on Feb. 22 at Kilworth Chapel at 7 p.m. Then, from Feb. 26-28, Campus Films will be showing the film “Creed,” with many discussions being hosted by the BSU along the way.

“Each week our club selects a thought-provoking question together based on national news and topics popular in the media. [They] may range from Beyoncé to how histories of slavery impact the classroom,” Askew said.

Jam-packed with events, Askew hopes that Black History Month is specifically impactful this year, in light of the recent national events of oppression and police brutality against people of color. She hopes that this month extends into a new culture of knowledge across campus.

“I do not think that black history should be relegated to a 29-day period… I hope instead that this month sparks an energy that encourages students at [Puget Sound] to seek out what it means to be a part of a global community and a nation where blackness is a part of our history,” Askew said.

Despite the fact that February is meant specifically for commemorating African American history, Askew believes that the topics that are discussed throughout this month are still as pertinent as ever.

“History is not something that lies in the past, but instead something that remains active and builds as people grow through it. So as we discuss Beyoncé and the Black Panther Party or slavery and mass incarceration, there is an interconnectedness that supersedes relevance,” Askew said.

Even as Black History Month passes by, the BSU has new plans and ideas for the months ahead. This semester, they will be releasing a literary magazine titled “Black Ice.” Submissions are encouraged and can be sent to ups.bsu@gmail.com until April 15. These submissions can be poetry, essays, or any art forms related to race; the magazine is meant to provide a new voice on campus.

“Our nation has always considered the black body a disposable body. If anything is relevant today it is the stories of blackness that need to be heard,” Askew said.

Article by Eada Gendelman