Bringing back diversity with Black History Celebration

In celebration of Black History month, the Black Student Union is brining the nationwide celebration of black achievement close to home.

The Black Student Union, in its 34th year at GW, created the Black History Celebration to complement Black History Month. The celebration spans from Jan. 21 to March 9, going beyond the traditional month-long celebration.

The theme for BSU this year is “Sharing Our History, Our Strength and Our Pride.”

“We are exposing our culture through different events,” said Shani George, BSU community service director. “We encourage all students to attend.”

BSU kicked off its celebration Jan. 21 with a Martin Luther King interfaith prayer brunch in the Marvin Center Ballroom. The event was cosponsored by the Multicultural Student Services Center.

On Feb. 5 the organization will hold a ceremony to honor GW community members who embody excellence. These recipients include financial assistance office worker Sandra Blanton, MSSC director Helen Cannaday-Saulny, counselor Robert Cannaday and Washington Post columnist Michelle Singletary. The ceremony will be held in the Betts Theater at 7:30 p.m.

BSU will host the play “Black Inventions” performed by Pin Points Theatre, for children in the D.C. area Feb. 16. The play begins at 12 p.m. in Funger Hall 103.

“We will recreate a day using inventions created by black inventors to portray the significance of their contributions to the world,” George said.
Co-sponsors BSU and the Program Board will close out the celebration with the semi-formal dance, the Unity Ball, March 9 with DJ Sixth Sense of WKYS.

This month marks the 76th anniversary of Black History Month. Carter G. Woodson first introduced it as Negro History Week during the second week of February in 1926.

The second week of February hosts the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln – two men who profoundly affected black society in America.

The son of former slaves, Woodson graduated from Harvard University in 1912 with a Ph.D. in history. He was the second black man to earn such a degree.

Woodson found that when history books mentioned black people, if they did at all, the books portrayed them in a socially inferior manner. This reflected the prevalent thought of the time. In response, he established the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History in 1915 and founded the Journal of Negro History in 1916 to encourage the positive study of black history.

Woodson launched Negro History Week to bring national attention to the contributions of blacks throughout American history. The week was celebrated annually until 1976, when it officially became Black History Month.

Woodson once said, “If race has no history, if it has no worthwhile tradition, it becomes a negligible factor in the thought of the world, and it stands in danger of being exterminated.”

Since the founding of Negro History Week, Woodson’s goals have come a long way.

“We want to reach out to as many black students as possible and at the same time share out rich culture with everyone,” BSU President Phillip Robinson said.

Robinson said he is eager to get students from other backgrounds and cultures on campus to come together this month.

“Especially after 9/11, we want to bring the community together,” Robinson said.

Just as Black History Month is an expansion of Negro History Week, the goals of BSU are an expansion of Woodson’s. Building on Woodson’s promotion of black history, BSU strives to promote the celebration of black history to bring students of all races together.

By co-sponsoring events with other cultural student organizations, BSU members said they hope to create a sense of unity through diversity.

“We put a lot of time and effort for all GW students to feel comfortable attending our events,” BSU Vice President Tamika Smith said. “They are not specific to the black community.”

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