By Jenn Eng
St. Bonaventure University’s Damietta Center of Multicultural Student Affairs began its celebration of Black History Month with the kickoff of its series “And Still WE Rise: Expressions of Black Heritage & Identity,” on Wednesday.
This year’s theme originated from the relevance of diversity in today’s world in regard to current events, said Parker Suddeth, coordinator of the Damietta Center.
Suddeth, who has helped plan the series for the past month, said these events are a direct reflection of the times we are living in.
“I speak directly to the race relations in the country and how we look at diversity and equity on campus,” Suddeth said. “I wanted to create programs so that all of the members of the SBU community could come together and take away from them, adding to the rich culture that Bonaventure already has and making it stronger.”
On Wednesday, Suddeth presented the episode “LEMONS” from the television series Black-ish, which revolved around the feelings and emotions the characters felt after Donald Trump was elected president.
“This particular episode is important because it talks about the aftermath of the election,” said Suddeth. “As a community, we need to talk about what it means. We recently had a forum on it, but this episode will paint a better picture of what is going on.”
After the viewing, both Suddeth, and Danette Brickman, an associate professor of political science, facilitated a conversation among the students and faculty members who were in attendance, about their reactions to the episode. “One statement that struck home with me is that we aren’t talking with each other,” said Brickman. “I think what we now have is a result of that. This isn’t something that just happened. It is something that has been happening all along.”
Natalie BeCoats, a sophomore journalism and mass communication major, said she and the Black Student Union have been active in looking for creative, yet informative, ways to spread positive messages, whether it be through conversation or the viewing of a show together.
“I think that these events will maybe inform the uninformed and hopefully bring the university together,” said BeCoats, vice president of the BSU. “It’s more important now than ever to be unified.”
Both Suddeth and BeCoats are looking forward to the event on Wednesday Feb. 15 at 5 p.m. titled “What Black Feminism means in the 21st Century.”
Four panelists will speak about what it is like to be a black woman in today’s society, black feminism in the Obama administration vs. the Trump administration, how to navigate higher education as women of color, professionalism, identity and more, said Suddeth.
“I am really looking forward to it because I don’t think that it’s talked about enough on campus, and the positive reinforcement will be good, especially in this time in our country,” BeCoats said.
On Thursday Feb. 16 at 11:30, the BSU will present Little Known Black History Facts in the Reilly Center Lobby with hot chocolate and cookies.
The following Thursday, Feb. 23, Ladan Osman, a Somali-American poet and teacher, and Donika Kelly, assistant professor of English, will do a joint reading of Osman’s poetry collection in the Quick Center Loft at 6 p.m.
Suddeth said he believes these events will be impactful to the university community.
“I think they’ll enhance the culture climate of the university regarding the way we see the larger world around us,” Suddeth said.
Although he is looking forward to Black History Month and the events he has planned, Suddeth said that black history is something that should be remembered daily.
“The events we [Damietta Center] have done and will continue to do, specifically speaking about black history, cannot be limited to the 28/29 days in the month of February,” said Suddeth. “It cannot limit the amount of accomplishments that black or African-American’s history have made nationally and globally.”