Several campus organizations are helping to celebrate Black History Month, which begins today, by hosting a myriad of social events throughout the month of February.
The Black Student Union (BSU), the MultiCultural Center (MCC) and the UCSB African American Cultural Services (AACS) — a division of the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) — are some of the organizations hosting events during the Black History Month celebration at UCSB and the surrounding Santa Barbara area. BSU will host one event per week in February while continually showing a commitment to its outreach program with students at Santa Barbara High School, who are attempting to start their own BSU. The MultiCultural Center is also hosting five events in the form of lectures, film screenings and performance art.
The celebration’s opening ceremony will be held on Wednesday at noon on the EOP lawn, and the closing service is scheduled on Feb. 24. Candice Brooks, AACS coordinator and counselor, said she is trying to unify faculty, staff and students in all aspects of this year’s festivities.
“The opening ceremony will be held during the noon hour in hopes of getting the faculty outside of the office and together with the students,” Brooks said. “There will be more crowd involvement compared to past years and student awareness. I think people will feel more engrossed because we’ve changed up the flow for the opening ceremonies.”
Brooks said she is also trying to get the Santa Barbara community involved and inform students about events off campus.
“We intend to get the students involved in the Santa Barbara community and vice versa,” Brooks said. “We want students to feel that they’re a part of something more than just the blue and gold, Storke Tower, classes, and the other things students do here.”
Each year the Association for the Study of African American Life and History in Washington, D.C. sponsors Afro-American History Month and designates a theme for the celebration each year. This year’s theme, “The Niagara Movement,” was inspired by W.E.B. DuBois’ movement to gain economic equality and end segregation in the early 1900s.
Ashleigh Rucker, junior biopsychology major and director of community development for the BSU, said this month’s activities — such as the BSU-sponsored Poetry Lounge in the MCC Theatre on Feb. 23 — are part of a yearlong effort.
“The BSU hosts events throughout the entire year that express our culture and history, and February will be no different,” Rucker said.
Luniya Msuku, an MCC programmer, said the organization’s events hope to extend beyond traditional ideas of African-American culture and heritage. One of the events includes a screening of “Afroargentines,” a film that focuses on the issue of ethnocentrism and the history of African descendants in Argentina.
“The MCC hopes to broaden the idea of the concept of what Black History Month is and whom this event should cover, including African-Americans as well as people of African descent that are from and live in other countries, and that identify as queer or transgender, or as mixed-race people,” Msuku said.
Msuku said Black History Month is also a time to acknowledge the experiences of black ancestors and their influence on society.
“We should also look critically at blacks in the U.S. today,” she said. “Not to be completely wrapped up in the past, but consider the way people are perceived on TV and on the street.”
Black History Month began nationally as Negro History Week in 1926 and was founded by Dr. Carter G. Woodson. It later evolved into Black History Month in the 1960s.