Many organizations do not get to see a continuation after 25 years, while some manage to prosper after 50 or 100 years. It is no surprise that the Black Student Union (BSU) at Binghamton University made 50 years in 2018 and has shown a strong presence on campus, holding events every week. As February comes to an end, we come to the conclusion of a month focused on the celebration and accolades of African Americans and the legacy many influential figures have left behind on the United States. BSU at BU took it upon itself to have a month full of events, which included workshops, general body meetings, guest speakers and entertainment.
One month dedicated to the plight of African Americans in our current soil and their achievements to overcome obstacles in the face of systematic oppression is what the second month of the year is about. Black history was not always celebrated in February, and the month first began as a week. The history goes back more than a century ago to 1915, when Carter G. Woodson and Jesse E. Moorland founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History. Today this organization is known as the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, which focuses on highlighting and showcasing achievements of Americans with African background. The organization held a national Negro History Week in 1926, which led to a rise in the celebration of African American achievements. During the 1960s, the week expanded to a month as a result of a decade of resilience and fight for equality. Another decade later in 1976, President Gerald Ford recognized Black History Month, making February an annual and national month of celebration.
This fiscal year, BSU has hosted many events open to the public that emphasized community engagement and discussions based on issues currently plaguing our campus and society. Through general body meetings and its colossal 50th Anniversary Fashion Show, the students involved in this organization have shown dedication to a community that lives within a predominantly white institution. This year, BSU’s theme for Black History month was Resilience: Achieving Black Excellence in All Aspects. The purpose of the theme was to highlight the accomplishments of African Americans as shown through the community’s ability to continue to strive in the face of oppression. Its general body meetings during this month focused on politics, society and history. Collaborations with organizations such as the Latin American Student Union, Bert Mitchell Minority Management Organization and the Juvenile Urban Multicultural Program, among others, allowed BSU to execute this month full of events with the help of other multicultural organizations on campus. In order to involve the campus community and create a month by the people and for the people, all the events hosted by this organization during this month were completely free of charge. Events such as its hair show Hairspressions created a sense of love for oneself and natural features. Keynote speaker Marc Lamont Hill spoke about overcoming any obstacles in one’s way. From personal experience, it was not only a month with historic importance, but as a result of the work of this organization, many students on campus were exposed to African American culture.
Speaking to Janiera Headley, current president of BSU and a junior majoring in economics, offered us more insight regarding the purpose of the events and the determination it took to pull off such a successful month. As president, Headley said a main obstacle she faced throughout these past few weeks was the amount of work involved in creating an event that was not only linked with the theme, but also successful individually. She gave thanks to each and every one of her executive board members for giving the BU campus a proper Black History Month. When spoken to about the theme, Headley said she birthed the title “Resilience” as a result of an Africana studies class that she took at the University. Her association of Black History Month with the word that defines the ability to get back on one’s feet and continue fighting had a clear resonance to the stories of her ancestors’ plight in the United States. The horrors that would be seen in the centuries to come could only be overcome by resilience.
As the month of February comes to an end, we take a look back at the achievements of the African American community and its impact on American society. At BU, the events created by BSU for Black History Month during its 50th year on this campus not only shows the determination of the group to provide events that cater to the community, but also the resilience to manage daily life while being part of this successful organization.