African American history will be honored throughout the semester, highlighted in presentations, panels and receptions throughout February and ending in an exhibit dedicated to the Civil Rights Movement in the month of April.
Associate Professor of History Selika Ducksworth-Lawton said the events will work hand-in-hand with initiatives UW-Eau Claire has in place.
“Our focus for African American History Month is student success,” she said. “So by really focusing, as a theme, on student success, we want to align African American History Month with the university’s inclusive excellence focus, which is increasing graduation rates.”
The events, which include student panels like, “Why did I choose Eau Claire?” made up of alumni who will share their college experiences, as well as one on interracial dating, will be hosted through February but will also run further into the semester.
There will also be speakers, including Civil Rights activist Joanne Bland, and a tone poem, an activity students will conduct themselves.
Jarrel Montgomery, public relations manager for the Black Student Alliance, is one of the students conducting the readings of
African American literature.
He said letting go of past experiences would be a mistake for the growth of the country.
“History is really what shapes our future and it really is what shapes who we are and really shapes our culture,” Montgomery said. “It’s really important to stay in touch with where you came from.”
This year, the Black Student Alliance is highlighting the struggles of African Americans from the days of the slavery to the obstacles they still face today.
Events promise to be artistic in nature, Montgomery said, with choreographed performances and African drumming planned.
The poems he and fellow BSA members will read will highlight the culture of African Americans and to share with a campus
occupied mostly by white students.
“We are definitely one of the minority races here at the university,” Montgomery said. “We really just want to share who we are and where we come from with everyone.”
The events are made possible through the efforts of BSA and its advisor Ducksworth-Lawton and the Office of Multicultural Affairs.
A Feb. 1 reception will focus on modern black artists and will connect interested students with faculty dedicated to multicultural initiatives at Eau Claire.
Director of Multicultural Affairs Jesse Dixon said these events are there primarily as a learning experience, especially due to the skewed version of history Americans are taught in schools.
“It is an opportunity for us as a nation to reflect on the fact that we are a community,” he said. “And that the contributors to the betterment of the community is not unique to one particular group of people, i.e. people of European descent.”
Montgomery said time spent immersed in black culture is important to identity for all students and stressed that the month of remembrance is vital to everyone on campus.
“People fought for us to get here,” he said. “History is what got you here to this day and it’s really important to celebrate that.”