To commence the celebration of Black History Month on campus, the Student Activities Office and the African-American Society hosted an art exhibition in David Saul Smith Union featuring slam poetry by Esther Nunoo ’17 Tuesday evening.

The show—on display in the Smith Union Blue Gallery—features artwork, posters and advertisements that showcase Bowdoin’s involvement in Black History Month events dating back to the 1970s. 

The posters highlight Bowdoin’s historical Black Arts Festival, a month-long celebration of Black History Month that occurred from the 1970s through early 2000s. Programs include a series of past events such as film screenings, lectures, dance, music and theater performances hosted by the Afro-American Society and Student Activities.
A 1981 poster advertised “A Day Against Racism in Honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.”, while one from 1978 promoted an event called “Soul Experience in Black America.” Other past events included day-long music and commentary on WBOR to complement the festival. 

The retrospective exhibition also features a poster revealing this year’s Black History Month events, although Bowdoin no longer holds the same Black Arts Festival. 

“It’s unfortunate that we don’t have [the festival] anymore,” said Olivia Paone ’15, one of the chief organizers of the Smith Union exhibition.
Paone and Kelsey Gallagher ’17 were both hired by Student Activities as student curators for Smith Union to co-lead the organization of the art exhibition and the accompanying event. 

“For this whole month we want to dedicate the entire Union to Black History Month,” said Gallagher. 

In addition to the Black Arts Festival posters, other exhibitions on display in Smith include the AIDS Memorial Quilt in the Lamarche Gallery and the “Hands Up Don’t Shoot” exposition on the first floor. 

According to Paone, the exhibition was created in the hopes of inspiring a revival of student involvement in the celebration of Black History Month.

“We want to showcase that Bowdoin cares about Black History Month,” said Gallagher. “We want to get a lot of students involved because it’s super important.”

Nunoo’s performance of two original slam-poetry pieces was aimed at bolstering the discussion of Bowdoin’s prior and current involvement in Black History Month. 

“Talking About Talking,” Nunoo’s first piece, illuminated her personal insights into how race and discussions around race play out at Bowdoin.
Her poetry resonated deeply with the audience of students and community members.

“She says things that I would never be able to say out loud,” said Kelsey Scarlett ’17. “It’s so nice to hear somebody feel the same way as you do even if you can’t say it.”

“The Bowdoin bubble is real,” added Amanda Spiller ’17. “Even when we talk about these [issues], we don’t go to the deep extent that they deserve.”

Nunoo’s second piece, “The Worth of a King,” a tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., featured live vocal accompaniment by Eliza Huber-Weiss ’17. 

With the backdrop of Black History Month and an examination of its historical place in the Bowdoin community, the exhibition hopes to continue inspiring dialogue about how race is perceived and discussed on campus.

“You walk away with feelings and whether or not you talk about them, you have to confront them within yourself,” added Spiller.