In commemoration of Black History Month, the Students of Color Alliance and the Georgetown chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People are holding events to raise awareness of current race issues.
The events, which include film screenings, panel discussions and conferences, cover topics from diversity to racial injustice. One of these conferences is the third annual Diversity and Dialogue Conference on Feb. 18, sponsored by the McDonough School of Business and Georgetown Aspiring Minority Business Leaders and Entrepreneurs. This year’s conference hopes to raise awareness of the professional challenges faced by minorities, as well as discuss the importance of diversity in the workplace.
Georgetown NAACP member Juliette Browne (COL ’18) emphasized the importance of drawing attention to the month’s events, and expressed hope that the community could join in the celebration and appreciate its significance.
“[Black History Month is a] time to celebrate the accomplishments of all the black community, uplift the black community and also inform others of what we’ve done and what we are trying to do,” Browne said.
Students of Color Association Co-President Bianca Uribe (COL ’18) said the month should be a time for individuals to reflect on their involvement in the black community.
“Black History Month is a time of reflection and a time of action,” Uribe said. “Reflect on all of the great things that happen in our society because of the efforts of the black community especially in this country and also thinking about how we can make things better.”
One of the first planned events is “Outspoken,” a series of spoken word poetry, singing and other art forms by students that address issues of race. Another event, titled “Malcolm X and Feminism,” is planned for Feb. 22 and will focus on the intersection of the preaching of civil rights activist Malcolm X and feminist ideas.
Xiomara Salazar (SFS ’18), a student interested in the events, emphasized the importance of Black History Month in creating a dialogue on campus in which students and organizations are free to discuss various issues. She said many of the events will encourage dialogue among fellow students.
“Even though Black History specifically celebrates black history, for me, being a student of color, it is great to be surrounded by so many great students that promote these events and talk about issues on campus,” Salazar said.
Uribe said that while these events hold great significance in creating awareness for black history, minorities’ struggles on campus are not common knowledge at Georgetown.
“I don’t feel like there is enough education to the outside community about the struggles of students of color and we are talking about other stuff like racial injustice, but what do we do about the people that are generally apathetic to all of this?” Uribe said.
While specific events will honor aspects and characteristics of Black History Month, many individuals are also hoping that this month will see continued dialogue with regards to the university’s own initiatives to address racial injustices, including the renaming of former Mulledy and McSherry Halls at the end of 2015.
Daviree Velázquez, the assistant director of diversity programs at the Center for Multicultural Equity and Access, worked with the working group to help change the names of the halls. She noted the importance of the community’s continuing to be actively involved in the discussion.
“I am grateful for the work both the students have done and the work the working group has done to change these names and provide interim names. I am really excited for everyone who has submitted new ideas and am still looking forward to people submitting more ideas for that,” Velázquez said.
Students involved in the events during Black History Month also highlighted the importance of the new creation of an African American studies major. Browne expressed her own gratitude and support for the new initiative.
“It is definitely a step in the right direction considering Georgetown has a long history of kind of keeping this in the background. For them to not only recognize it but show that there needs to be a change is something we can applaud,” said Browne. “I think [African-American studies] is great. It took way too long for it to happen, but Georgetown is definitely making steps in the right direction.”
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