BSU’s Black History Month programming celebrates black culture


Photo credit: Andrea Nebhut

Illustration by Andrea Nebhut

February marks the start of Black History Month, a month dedicated to the recognition and appreciation of black Americans’ artistic, political and societal contributions to the country. Black Student Union (BSU) has been busy since late fall planning events for Black History Month, starting with a name change of the month’s programming from Mocha Month to Black History Month in order to make the focus of the events more clear to students not in BSU.

All Black Everything Party (Feb. 2)

BSU is kicking off Black History Month with an All Black Everything Party at Lush Rooftop. This event, which has a strict black, gold and silver dress code, is meant to replicate historically similar parties thrown by black Greek life organizations during Black History Month, with the purpose of celebrating black culture, music and dance.

“Black Greeks historically utilize dance, such as stepping and strolling, to express themselves and showcase the historical significance of dance in Black culture,” read the tickets for All Black Everything, which were given out for free in Coates Student Center on Friday.

“We wanted to do this because that’s something that we’ve been talking about in the past, throwing a party specifically by Black Student Union or just by black people on campus,” said Kezia Nyarko, junior and co-chair of Black History Month programming.

All Black Everything is open to all Trinity students. Trinity students can pick up their tickets for free from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in Coates Student Center before Saturday, and tickets are standard Lush prices at the door.

Allyship Workshop with TDC (Feb. 5)

BSU is also planning a workshop with Trinity Diversity Connection with the focus of teaching non-black students how to be better allies and advocates for black students at Predominantly White Institutions (PWIs).

“The workshop came from a lot of issues regarding black people on campus … the core problem really is that a lot of non-black people on campus don’t know how to advocate for black students, and that was kind of where [we] wanted to begin,” Nyarko said.

At the workshop, BSU will be going through scenarios and pointing out ways in which non-black people can be allies in those situations.

Faculty Dialogue: “If Starbucks is Bought by Nestlé, Please Don’t Arrest Me: A Discussion on Race, Identity and Democracy in the United States” (Feb. 8)

Senior Pyar Seth created and organized this panel in honor of Black History Month. Panelists Tahir Naqvi, associate professor of sociology and anthropology, and Carey Lattimore, associate professor of history, along with scholars outside Trinity, will have an open dialogue about race, identity and democracy in CSI 437, followed by a question and answer session and reception.

“Our analysis of the racial apparatus requires an interdisciplinary approach. I personally believe that in order for us to have a complete understanding of the world around us, we have to dissect the issues of today layer by layer,” Seth wrote in an email interview. “I think that having the opportunity to bring in a group of diverse scholars form around the country that have committed themselves to studying racial politics in its complexity is one way we can begin to do that.”

Seth will co-moderate the panel along with Norvella Carter, interim chair of education, and Wilson Terrell, associate professor of engineering science.

“The panel on Feb. 7 will be truly unprecedented for Trinity,” Naqvi wrote in an email interview. “We are bringing together leading scholars on race and politics for an in-depth conversation about who we are as a nation and a polity and what we need to consider as we navigate the difficult terrain that lies ahead.”

BSU “School Daze” Movie Showing (Feb. 14)

BSU will screen “School Daze,” a Spike Lee comedic drama about the conflicts between students at a historically black university during homecoming weekend.

Nyarko hopes that black students and other students of color would be able to see their experiences reflected in the film.

“[The film] talks about hair, it talks about colorism, it talks about the black Greek system and hazing, it essentially talks about what black college culture is,” Nyarko said. “It’s meant to showcase [black college culture] to both black students at Trinity, so that they can kind of feel like they can relate to some of the things that are going on, also to the other non-black students on campus so they can understand what black college culture is like.”

Spoken Word: A Love Letter to Black Folks (Feb. 14)

BSU will host a spoken word artist at Skyline. Last year, BSU hosted poet Porsha Olayiwola; this year they will host Kai Davis, a poet and two-time international grand slam champion who won Brave New Voices in 2011 and The College Union Poetry Slam Invitational in 2016.

Davis’s poems about being a black college student resonated with Nyarko.

“She was saying if I speak in Ebonics, it does not make me any lesser than my other peer who does not, who speaks what is considered to be proper English,” Nyarko said. “A lot of her poems reflect what it means to be young and black and in spaces that are also non-black.”

Soul Food Rent Party (Feb. 19)

The Soul Food Rent Party, which BSU has hosted for several years, is an event where students can celebrate black culture over a dinner of traditional soul food. This year, there will be trivia, board games and a costume contest, along with a ’90s theme.

Khaniya Russell, BSU president, explained the historical significance of rent parties in black culture.

“The history of rent parties is that black people in their neighborhoods would throw these parties when they needed money to pay their rent, so you invite the whole neighborhood and charge them for entry or for plates, and then there’s line dancing, and it’s like a really nice house party and out of it people essentially would get money to pay their rent,” Russell said.

While the Soul Food Rent Party is free and open to everyone, Russell hoped that some of the original spirit of rent parties would be present.

“Any money that we raise [from the Soul Food Rent Party] is going to be fundraised for the Black Student Union, and it’ll just be a really nice time with the dancing and the camaraderie,” Russell said.

Night at the Apollo (Feb. 21)

A Night at the Apollo is a reimagining of BSU’s previous Lip Sync Battle, but based on Harlem’s world-famous Apollo Theater, which has historically been a haven for black artists and musicians.

“I would say if you’re a famous black artist, there’s some part of your background where you have gone to the Apollo and performed,” Nyarko said. “Michael Jackson, Beyonce, Stevie Wonder, a whole lot of legendary black musicians have competed at the Apollo, and it’s one of those things that makes or breaks your career.”

Sierra Rodriguez, BSU’s co-social chair, also expressed her enthusiasm for the event.

“The Night at the Apollo is just exciting because it’s an opportunity for people to come and perform, low stakes,” Rodriguez said.

Any Trinity student is welcome to participate, and there will be cash prizes ranging from $25 to $125.

BHM Showcase: For the Culture (Mar. 2)

The final Black History Month event will be a talent showcase in Laurie Auditorium.

“The theme for the showcase is ‘For The Culture,’ so we’re exploring different aspects of black culture, starting with African roots, the diaspora, all the way to religion and the importance of religion in black culture, to opera and European kinds of blackness,” Nyarko said. “We’ll explore viral dances and how that really came from the roots of black culture, and so it’s gonna go beyond everything.”

Students with questions about Black History Month’s programming can email Khaniya Russell at [email protected].