With Sibley 324 filled to capacity, attendees of Professor of History Wendy Gordon’s 9 a.m. lecture on Native American resistance to expansion sit on the windowsill.
By Aleksandra Sidorova
SUNY Plattsburgh held its second annual Black Solidarity Day social justice teach-in Nov. 6, featuring more than 40 conference-style sessions, a keynote, food trucks and a vigil.
The kickoff event at 8:30 a.m. featured speeches from Chair of Faculty Senate Bridget Haina; President Alexander Enyedi; Vice President of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Allison Heard; Mayor Chris Rosenquest and two student members of the club Black Onyx: The Black Student Union — President Shaniah Fairweather and Vice President Angelina Briggs.
Enyedi noted that the scope of SUNY Plattsburgh’s event expanded to include surrounding communities, as the New York State Division of Human Rights provided shuttle services to allow visitors from Paul Smiths, Saranac Lake, Lake Placid and Keene to attend. Enyedi also read the college’s Land Acknowledgement Statement, recognizing that the campus is located on land that historically belonged to the Iroquois, Western Abenaki, Mohican and Mohawk peoples.
President Alexander Enyedi speaks at the opening of Black Solidarity Day’s events.
Mayor Rosenquest followed Enyedi’s speech with one of his own.
“What is this, the fourth year that we’re doing a social justice teach-in,” Rosenquest said in his speech. “I could not be more proud as an alum, I could not be more proud as a resident of the City of Plattsburgh to see this institution — my alma mater and one of the most important organizations in the City of Plattsburgh — put their money where their mouth is.”
The speakers noted that Black Solidarity Day is becoming an integral part of the SUNY Plattsburgh curriculum. SUNY Plattsburgh had held social justice teach-ins in 2017 and 2019, but since 2022, they have been and will continue to be held on an annual basis to recognize Black Solidarity Day.
Afro-Panamanian activist and scholar Carlos Russell created Black Solidarity Day to always be observed on the first Monday of November, the day before Election Day. The day encourages Black people to “stay home from work and school and to not shop or participate in other commercial activities.” The day highlights social injustices and the important roles Black voices play in American life. The Student Association submitted a proposal to recognize this day as a holiday.
It revised the proposal to instead make it a day of learning, and both the Faculty Senate and administration approved it in spring 2022.
“For us, Black Solidarity Day is so much more than an observance,” Fairweather said in her speech. This year’s Black Solidarity Day had the theme of “You Belong: Let’s Erase the Hate.” The sessions included lectures, workshops, panel discussions, research presentations and a showing of a student-produced documentary film uncovering the history of the 1969 protests at Voorhees College, now Voorhees University. Some sessions had so many attendees that organizers brought extra chairs with them, sat on the floor, windowsill or even moved the sessions to a different location entirely. The keynote speaker was SUNY Senior Vice Chancellor for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer Ricardo Nazario y Colón.
A number of colleges nationwide observe Black Solidarity Day, but SUNY Plattsburgh is one of the only SUNY campuses to host a day-long social justice teach-in that involves students, faculty, staff and members of both the Plattsburgh and surrounding communities.