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University News

Black History Month Begins With Flag Raising

Program kicks off a month of educational and social justice events

Posted in: Homepage News, University

Police officer holds a red, black and green flag.
University police officers served as the color guard for the procession.

To mark the beginning of Black History Month, the campus community gathered at the Student Center flagpole on Wednesday, February 1 celebrating with an opening program that included a flag-raising ceremony and presentations about historical Black leaders.

Representatives from various campus organizations and departments, the President’s office and the University Police Department helped to celebrate this year’s theme, “Champions of the Bridges that Carried Us Over.”

The procession made its way across campus from Cole Hall to the flagpole by the Student Center. Following the flag-raising ceremony, which included the reading of a proclamation, singing of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” also known as the Black National Anthem, the celebration continued in the Student Center Ballrooms, where participants gave brief presentations of their favorite or most influential Black historical figures.

President Jonathan Koppell expressed the importance of this celebration at the University and how it’s embraced by the campus community:

“It is incumbent upon us to make the reasons for this celebration and the reason for us talking about this history abundantly clear. We cannot talk about American history without talking about African American history,” Koppell said. “If you can’t understand where we are today, then we can’t figure out how to get to a better place in the future without understanding where we came from.”

Darius Edward, assistant director of the Office for Social Justice and Diversity and one of the speakers at the event, explained what the purpose of this celebration is for the campus community.

“This event is a celebration in that people feel comfortable, they feel affirmed and they feel safe to really honor and acknowledge the impact of Black Americans on this country from then, now and moving forward,” Edward said. “I hope that students understand the fact that we celebrate because we want to honor and celebrate where we come from in order to push forward to where we’re going.”

Students who attended say they learned something from the event. Breanna Matthew, a junior majoring in Television and Film, says that this event introduced her to influential leaders she had never learned about.

“I was informed about Bass Reeves, the official Lone Ranger, so I definitely want to get into that and research about him because he’s what engaged me the most and I feel like he’s a really inspiring character,” Matthew said after the program.

Natalee Ramos, a junior majoring in Justice Studies, said the event was meaningful.

“It was a great opportunity to learn more about my history, my background and pretty much just get a feel of what these educators have to say about Black History Month,” Ramos said. “I can see that the speakers today really care about the students knowing about Black History Month regardless of their race, and I feel like that’s important.”

The event was sponsored by the Black Heritage Planning Committee, the Office of Social Justice and Diversity, the President’s Commission on Affirmative Action and the Office of Student Development and Campus Life.

Celebrations continue throughout the month with a series of events and programs including art and museum exhibits and film screenings and discussions on a variety of social justice issues supported by the African American Studies program, the African American Caucus, the Black Alumni Advisory Council and a coalition of campus partners.

According to the planning committee, the theme ‘“Champions of the Bridges that Carried Us Over,” “reminds us that each one of us has the capacity to take courageous action for equity, justice and a world where all beings thrive. We are the solutions to the challenges we face in our communities and around the globe.”

To learn more about upcoming events, visit the website.

Photo Gallery

The procession heads from Cole Hall to the Student Center flagpoles.
People walk on a large sidewalk past buildings.
The procession makes its way across campus.
John J. Cali School of Music Graduate Student GaDa Lambert sings the Black National Anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”
An appreciative crowd
Professor Sandra Lewis welcomes the crowd to the flag-raising ceremony.
President Koppell reads the University’s Black History Month proclamation at the flag-raising ceremony.
Man speaks holding a microphone.
Professor Leslie Wilson discusses the origins of Black History Month at the program following the flag-raising.
Advisor Christopher Cottle, Psychology Professor Saundra Collins and Psychology Professor Sandra Lewis were among many who presented information about Black leaders through history.
A cold but clear day for flag raising.

Story by Rosaria Lo Presti. Photos by John J. LaRosa. For more photos, visit the full gallery.