Putting Bucknell’s Black History Month into perspective

Bel Carden, Special Features Editor, Special Features Layout Editor

Black History Month was not always celebrated in the way we now recognize. Initially, time set aside for the appreciation of Black history  spanned only one week in February, the second of the month. It was created in 1926 by Carter G. Woodson, now regarded by many as the father of Black history education in America. Woodson is known for helping establish African American studies within academic environments. He also is recognized for founding the association of African American life and history which, to this day, is one of the oldest historical societies in the United States. Woodson created Black History Month with one central goal: to highlight prominent members of the black community whose actions have impacted not just the United States but the entire world. The month also focuses on teaching the history of Black Americans in educational institutions. Black History Month recognizes and creates opportunities to discuss the dark history of racism and slavery in the united states. The month also focuses on all the African American community has accomplished through highlighting Black leaders and their accomplishments.
The idea of switching the celebration of Black history from only the second week of February to the entire month was first generated at Kent State University by their Black Student Union in 1969. It took until 1975 for Black History Month to become commonly celebrated across the United States, and until 1976 to be codified in law by Congress as an observed holiday. They decided to celebrate Black History Month in February because the birthdays of both Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln, two seminal figures in the abolition of American slavery, fall within the month.
Every year Black History Month also has a theme, meant to highlight important developments from within the Black community from the last year. 2022s theme is “Black health and wellness,” acknowledging the legacy of Black scholars and medical practitioners in both western medicine and other forms of nontraditional medicine. The theme is also meant to raise awareness towards initiatives to build hospitals, medical and nursing schools and community clients opposing the discrimination often found in mainstream health institutions. Lastly, another facet of the health and wellness theme focuses on not only physical health, but also emotional and mental health as well as the de-stigmatization of mental illness.
One group on campus hosting events to celebrate Black History Month is the Universitys Black Student Union (BSU). The first Black Student Union was established in 1966 at San Francisco State College, quickly becoming the inspiration for over 1,000 other Black Student Unions across the United States. These groups aim to connect Black students within their community and their universitys community overall. According to the Universitys Black Student Union constitution, The BSU aims to provide and maintain the best possible conditions in which Black students may receive a complete education. This is done by promoting Black cultural events, keeping active communication with the Black alumni association, improving Africana studies programs and working with the office of multicultural student services on projects such as planning trips, attending conferences and providing scholarship and grant information to members of BSU. Some of the events led by BSU are the annual Kwanzaa celebration, Black History Month and Black arts festival.
Bucknell’s Black Student Union is currently led by president Bryanni Williams 23. When asked to reflect on her time in BSU and why it was so important to her, Williams emphasized how this group was her University community. This organization is important to me and should be important to everyone because its important to have voices and faces for Black students, especially for a campus like Bucknell where Black students are the minority there arent even a 100 of us, if that. Whats important is giving Black students spaces to be authentically themselves and showcase their Blackness without being tokenized and judged or the oddball out. I definitely think thats what makes this organization very very important especially also given the political climate and things like that PWI (primarily white institutions) need BSU because everyone needs that space to just destress and be among you know their tribe, their community, their family, Williams said.
And I think BSU is important,” BSU member Brandon Vessels 22 said, “because without BSU there would not be a space for black students to comfortably commune together and really discuss issues affecting the Black community both on campus and in the larger society.”
Both students also mentioned their favorite BSU memory – the fashion show, which is being held on Feb. 18 in Larison dining. Vessels explains how being involved in the fashion show pushed his boundaries. My most notable and favorite memory of BSU was being able to host, executive produce and model in the BSU fashion show my sophomore year. It was one of the most stressful experiences of my life but looking back at it and seeing all the pictures and the stories everyone has from the event it was truly an amazing experience and really pushed me out of my comfort zone and showed me what I can accomplish when I really want something, he added.
Williams also fondly remembers this event, highlighting how it connected members of BSU from all grades, I feel like definitely, my favorite memory for sure would have to be my first-year Black arts festival. I was the first-year representative that year and all of us are really involved in BSU, I got to walk in a couple of scenes of the fashion show. Im a Bisonette so I got to perform at a stomp out. It was just overall a great time to just see how everyone came together, Williams noted.
The Black Student Union is also in partnership with the following organizations: African Student Association at Bucknell (BASA), The Bisonettes, Latinx Alliance for Community and Opportunity for Students (LACOS), National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. and Student National Medical Association – Minority Association for Pre-medical Students. They are also celebrating Black History Month with many upcoming events; in particular, their fashion show and the stomp out is next weekend, Feb. 18 and 19. More information about both these events and the black student union, in general, can be found on their Instagram @bucknellbsu.
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