An “Arts is activism” sign hung behind Kristen Mann’s table as she made finishing touches to her live painting of two black women reflected on a black canvas. This painting session was just one way “Celebrating Black History Through the Arts,” the theme of this year’s Black History Month, kicked off Wednesday night in the Mandela Room in the University Union.
Hosted by the Black Student Union (BSU) and the Multicultural Resource Center, the kickoff event aimed to empower and support black art, as well as demonstrate the accomplishments of black artists throughout history.
For local freelance visual artists like Mann, this was a chance for their artwork to reach others in a nonforceful way.
“I want to represent black women making something of themselves, and also show the artwork that represents black culture without it being too forceful or demanding, but very subtle and powerful at the same time,” Mann said. “It doesn’t have to sell but if it resonates with students, adults, everybody — that’s all that matters to me.”
Khalilah Suluki, vice president of BSU and a senior majoring in philosophy, politics and law, said she chose the theme for this year because she wanted everyone to embrace their inner creativity.
“Within the black community, the arts are very underfunded sometimes,” Suluki said. “We need to support artists, support people that are doing art. To make sure that black art, whether it’s music or visual arts, is being just as important and appreciated as other forms.”
Other forms of art on display at the event were choreographed dances, spoken-word poetry, songs and monologues.
Qiana Watson, case management coordinator for the Dean of Students Office at BU, was one of the performers who acted out an original work, titled “Me,” about a slave woman remembering the brutal murders of her parents by their master.
For Watson, events like this one are important because they helps students of different cultural backgrounds connect and understand each other better, especially at a predominantly white institution like Binghamton University.
“It’s also good to have an infusion of other cultures intermingling,” Watson said. “At the end of the day, we are really one people anyway.”
Upcoming events and activities during Black History Month include Sip and Paint with the Gamma Sigma Zeta fraternity, Thurgood Marshall Pre-Law Society’s annual step show, a poetry slam, a private screening of the film “Black Panther” and a keynote speech given by Regina Hall, an African American actress known for her roles in movies like “Girls Trip” and the “Scary Movie” series.
According to Jermel McClure, president of the Student Association and a senior majoring in political science, the various events of Black History Month are important because they not only spread awareness, but connect different groups of people on campus.
“It’s important to have events like this on campus because it allows other students who are outside of the culture to come in and learn a lot more about the culture,” McClure said. “And for those of us who are in the culture, it allows us to come together and celebrate and really build a community among ourselves.”