Thursday, June 20, 2024

Celebrating Black History Month

By Cinara Marquis

Black History Month is an annual observance that occurs in February. It honors the triumphs and achievements of African Americans and celebrates their contributions to the world.

Shaniah Fairweather, president of the club Black Onyx: The Black Student Union, shared over email about what Black History Month means to her:


“Black History Month to me means empowerment. This month is to make sure that our ancestors’ stories are never forgotten. It’s to make sure that African Americans today know how important and powerful our skin is. Black History Month to me is every month of the year.”

Black Onyx aims to make the adjustment to college easier for students, especially BIPOC students. The club promotes Black heritage and cultural awareness and is an advocate for student needs.


Fairweather continued, “It is very important that we celebrate Black History on this campus, especially because we attend a predominantly white school.”


Building solidarity is also important to Isabella Rodriguez, the president of FUERZA: The BIPOC Student Union, a club which strives to create a safe space for BIPOC communities on and off SUNY Plattsburgh’s campus:


“It is important that we celebrate Black History Month, particularly on college campuses, because it creates a space for students, administrators, and other faculty members to feel safe, seen, supported, embraced, and powerful in their environment.” 


Black History Month is a reminder to encourage the promotion of equity.


Rodriguez said, “We should take the time, especially during this beautiful month, to honor those—past and present—who overcame great adversity while also creating a great deal of beauty, community, and life that we are all able to appreciate today.”


To celebrate Black History Month, Fairweather encourages people to educate themselves about things that they may not be aware of.


She wrote, “Everyone on this campus should be educated and wanting to learn about their classmates. Our background and the past is what built us up to be who we are today.”

If SUNY Plattsburgh is to foster the kind, inclusive and diverse community that it strives for in its mission statement, students and faculty must be willing to better themselves.


Rodriguez agreed and recommended that people research the achievements of Black Americans, as well as “attend Black History Month events and/or programs both on and off campus, and support Black-owned businesses.”


Fairweather recommended that students come to Black Onyx meetings, which are in Yokum 205 at 8 p.m. every Wednesday.


“Our meetings are put into place to empower people, educate them and help them celebrate this beautiful month,” she explained. Fuerza: meets every Wednesday in The Amnesty Room in the ACC at 7 p.m.


Allison Heard, vice president of the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, wrote over email about the significance of educational events during this month: “Black History Month focuses on celebrating the remarkable achievements and contributions of African Americans in an enhanced way. Often, these achievements go unnoticed or are suppressed. We have partnered with various departments to co-host programs throughout the month.”


DEI has collaborated and hosted various events in celebration of Black History Month. In the beginning of February, there was a Racial Healing Circle hosted by the Truth, Racial Healing, & Transformation Center, followed by a concert a couple days later by the Trillium Chamber Players.

Guest speaker Andratesha Fitzgerald, teacher and curriculum specialist, held a discussion and workshop called “Power and Empowerment: Recognizing the Importance of Decision-Making and Design,” hosted by the New York State Hate & Bias Prevention North Country Regional Council and New York State Master Teachers. “Loving Every Shade of You” was a Valentine’s Day event that encouraged students to share their appreciation for diversity on campus. In collaboration with Chartwells, the DEI hosted a Mardi Gras dinner party as well.


Today, Friday Feb 16, from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., there is an African-American Read-In in the James Augustus Wilson Commons in Champlain Valley Hall, hosted by Sigma Tau Delta. A field trip to the North Country Underground Railroad Museum is also being hosted Feb 19 from 2 to 4 p.m. Throughout the whole month, there are come-and-go events in the H.U.B. in the Angell College Center, including music and more, every day from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and movies and documentaries every day from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m.


Contact for more information about Black History Month events on campus.


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