Binghamton University students and administrators are working to add Black Solidarity Day to the academic calendar.
Black Solidarity Day falls annually on the first Monday of November, just before Election Day. According to Nia Johnson — the Student Association (SA) president heading the effort in collaboration with the Black Student Union (BSU) and “top level administrators” as well as a senior majoring in human development — the memorial day was created in 1969 by Carlos E. Russell, an activist and historian. She explained that its purpose is for the Black community and its allies to reflect on their progress, find solutions to inequality and “create a more equitable future” for Black people.
Johnson described the impact that adding the day to the academic calendar could potentially have for the Black community at BU.
“It will show Black students that our culture and our history matters in a higher academia setting,” Johnson wrote in an email. “I also believe that this is a step that BU can take to show Black students ‘we see you all, we hear you all and this is our step toward fostering a more culturally competent campus.’ The only Black holiday recognized on the academic calendar is Juneteenth, [but] there is a difference between acknowledging a holiday during the summer sessions and acknowledging a holiday during the fall semester.”
She elaborated, explaining that during the summer, students are not necessarily paying attention to the academic calendar unless they are enrolled in a summer class. In the fall however, having an intentional day off from classes would have an impact on a larger group of students. Johnson emphasized that, as a result, there may be more conversation surrounding Black Solidarity Day and that the campus community should find ways to better recognize it.
“The [BSU] has always held programming during Black Solidarity Day,” Johnson wrote. “On campus throughout the spine, black flags are planted to honor all Black people who lost their lives to police brutality. Then in the evening we start in the [University Union] and listen to Black creatives share their work, reflect on the day and march around campus honoring those who lost their lives to brutality and share our stories.”
Johnson added that the University should make an effort to encourage professors and students to attend these events and suggested that the BSU use their programming to put together a campus-wide event in collaboration with other offices. She concluded by saying she would like to use this day as a way to continue to foster discussions on systemic inequalities — which can be improved through campus-wide recognition of the day.
The hope, according to Johnson, is that BU formally acknowledges Black Solidarity Day by the 2024-25 academic year. As she is graduating, she will be passing this initiative off to Elisheva Ezor, the incoming SA president and a junior double-majoring in mathematics and business administration.
Erin Neenan, a junior majoring in graphic design, spoke about the impacts and next steps of the including this day on the calendar.
“I think it would help provide the [campus] community with awareness on these issues,” Neenan said. “However, I also feel that there needs to be literal and direct action involved, in addition to establishing a single day on a calendar.”
Andrea Settembrini, a freshman majoring in biology, agreed with Neenan and stated the importance of learning from a diverse set of perspectives.
“I think we should stand in solidarity with Black people and uplift their voices,” Settembrini said. “As a white person myself, I think we should learn to better understand others’ experiences.”