This week UCSB will celebrate African-American culture and heritage with Black Culture Week.

The culture week is coordinated by the Black Student Union (BSU), and more than half a dozen on-campus and off-campus African-American based organizations will be hosting various events throughout the week. Guest speakers, singing contests, a bowling night and dance are among the activities planned.

“It gives us an opportunity to take over one week of the year to represent who we are and where we come from and our different backgrounds, and to show that we are all able to come together and to put something on to positively reinforce our heritage,” said Ashley Thomas, Black Culture Week director and first year psychology major.

A ceremony is scheduled to open Black Culture Week at noon today in Storke Plaza. A black women’s caucus in San Miguel Formal Lounge at 8:30 p.m. and black men’s caucus in the Graduate Student Association Lounge at 8:30 p.m. will also be held today to provide a forum to discuss issues pertinent to black men and women.

“It’s an opportunity to address issues that have been on people’s mind for a long time in a safe environment,” Thomas said.

Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. will host a singing contest Tuesday in I.V. Theater II. The contest’s theme is “Diversity Within the Community.”

A show Wednesday on the UCen lawn will feature “stepping,” a form of dance that mixes African dance and hip hop.

“You can define Black culture as the traditions that have been taken from Africa and have been acclimated into American culture because there is a difference between African culture and American culture, but they do coincide with many things, such as stepping,” Thomas said.

A debate on affirmative action is planned for Thursday at 11 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. in the MultiCultural Center. A guest panel will facilitate the debate, but who the speakers will be has yet to be confirmed.

Thomas said Black Culture Week is important because it offers UCSB students a chance to learn about the African-American community.

“Because we represent such a smaller number [of people], I think it’s really important that we do have things such as Black Culture Week,” Thomas said. “It shows that we do positive things in the community.”