This story is written by a guest author. The views and opinions expressed within it are those of the individual author and do not necessarily represent an official stance of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion or the University of Utah.
February is Black History Month, a time for individuals within the pan-African diaspora to express their talents and contributions on a large scale because it is only during this month that we are in the spotlight to shine. Black folx also use this month as an opportunity to gather, reflect and strategize about our collective well-being and needs of our community – all while holding one another accountable for power hierarchies we perpetuate in the systems of oppression. For the Black Student Union (BSU), this month reminds us how far we have come and to interrogate how much further we must struggle for authentic Black liberation.
“This should not minimize the importance for the entire campus to assume the responsibility of celebrating Black lives.”
As Black students at a Predominantly White Institution (PWI), it is critical that we create spaces to see ourselves reflected in programming. While Black individuals should never have to sacrifice identity in exchange for feeling safe in the environment where they live, this is sometimes our reality. Because of systemic oppression that was created to divide and harm underrepresented folx, we have become socialized to live in the shadows. For many of us, Black History Month is a time to reject feelings of fear and shame imposed on our culture, and instead, we express pride and love for ourselves. Members of the BSU expressed feeling as though the University becomes a haven where Black folx can connect and express themselves freely. Celebrating Black History Month, at a PWI, serves as a vessel to allow Black identified individuals to finally see all that we can do while we are at this institution and teaches us the importance of strengthening our community.
Black Student Union uses this month as a time to demonstrate to the University community that Blackness is not a monolith and portrays the intersections of identity within our Blackness. This is achieved by Black student leaders modeling how to compose relevant events. This should not, however, minimize the importance for the entire campus to assume the responsibility of celebrating Black lives. While organizing such events is a way for us to serve and give back to the Black community, this work can be exhausting and even become a burden when the Black student community is the only entity organizing opportunities for education about diverse Black experiences.
“It is our shared struggles and successes that empower us to grow within society as a whole.”
While some organizations end this month with a form of celebration, we must be reminded that this celebration is not a party; we must not forget that although the month is ending, our Blackness holds no limits. Black History Month is only 28 days, but the impact of the Black community is to be acknowledged 365 days a year, every year. We must remember to always celebrate #BlackExcellence in all that we do. We are integral parts in a greater community, and we stand on the shoulders of our ancestors. We must reaffirm that our Blackness holds no limits. We must unite with our family in the Pan-African diaspora. We must create room for ourselves at a new table where we are at the center, rather than a story on the sidelines.
While our cuisine, various dances and customs show that Blackness isn’t monolithic, it is the similarity in how we experience this campus that allows us to mobilize and organize with other folx. It is our shared struggles and successes that empower us to grow within society as a whole.
Black Student Union strives to create space to have these conversations throughout the year. Black History Month provides a platform to reach a broader audience while facilitating education for the entire campus community. This month is a time of reflection – a time dedicated to our memory of the contributions we have made. It is a time devoted to the rejuvenation of strength, love and power that has been passed down throughout generations which push us forward.
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