A Pulitzer Prize winning author and a White House correspondent will be among the guests on campus for Black History Month and Beyond this year. The celebration, led by several affinity groups, will officially commence today during the Kick-Off Reception in Russwurm African American Center from 4:30 to 6 p.m.
“It’s been a cold winter, so hopefully people can bring some warm energy to Russwurm and continue to fight the good fight in fellowship,” said Benjamin Harris, director of the Student Center for Multicultural Life.
In planning programming, Harris tries to combine various ideas transpiring on campus and present them cohesively to the community. In this vein, Black History Month and Beyond has been made possible by the collaborative efforts between groups such as the African American Society (Af-Am), Africa Alliance, Student Organization for Caribbean Awareness, the Sexuality, Women and Gender Center (SWAG), the Muslim Student Association (MSA) and the Dean’s Office.
The Outing Club and Student Activities were the lead sponsors of Dr. Carolyn Finney’s presentation “Black Faces, White Spaces: Re-Imagining the Relationship of African Americans to the Outdoors,” which took place last night. Finney sparked a fresh conversation that Harris believes is relevant to Bowdoin’s community, given that part of Maine’s appeal to many students is its opportunity for engagement in a multitude of outdoor activities.
“It’s interesting to think about what it looks like for people of color to experience the outdoors in a way that traditionally has not been the case,” Harris said. “I think the Outing Club is doing a really great job in trying to bring light and engage folks in conversation about diversity in the outdoors.”
Af-Am is currently focused on the Concert and Showcase, an event comprised of creative student performances, set to take place in Jack Magee’s Pub and Grill on February 16.
“We usually bring a performer on campus, but this year we are highlighting Af-Am members that produce their own music and giving them a platform to share their art and music, including rap, R&B, hip-hop and slam poetry,” said Mohamed Nur ’19, president of Af-Am. “We are trying to highlight the talent within our own community and show Bowdoin a different kind of sound.”
The President’s Office helped bring Taylor Branch, an author who won a Pulitzer Prize for chronicling the work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during the Civil Rights Movement. MSA focused on the recruitment of Tariq Touré, who will be on campus on February 28th to recount art and narrative regarding social justice and the black Muslim experience.
Other events include “A Night of Comedy” on February 22 with comedian Teddy Ray and the annual “Ebony Ball” on February 23. In addition, on March 5, April Ryan, who has worked as a White House correspondent for over 20 years and authored the book “Under Fire: Reporting from the Front Lines of the Trump White House,” will give a lecture. Harris strongly encourages students not to miss her visit.
Harris added that Black History Month and Beyond encourages people to realize that the world surpasses their immediate community and acknowledge the black contributions and sacrifices that have generated the world as we know it.
At Bowdoin, Black History Month—typically celebrated in February—will expand beyond the traditional timeline with Finney’s talk yesterday and another to be held in early March, giving a literal meaning to the word “Beyond” in the name of the celebration. However, the use of the term is also symbolic.
“We are not constrained to the month of February; black history is always around,” Harris said. “It’s an opportunity to let people know that it’s bigger than just February. It goes throughout the year because it wouldn’t be America without black people.”
Although Harris said his logistical priority is to oversee contracts and facilitate ideas, he feels that the month is a chance to create particularly impactful programming on campus.
“I hope people take time to laugh, to reflect and to want to learn more as well as engage around a topic or issue in a way that they might not have before coming to a program,” he said.