Why we’re reclaiming our renaissance

Bishop Walton and Guinevere Thomas are co-chairs of the Black Heritage Celebration. Almaz Abedje is the vice president of GW’s National Association of Black Journalists.

When September 2019 came, the Black Heritage Celebration committee was tasked with encapsulating the black experience at GW for the upcoming year. The committee recognized the centennial anniversary of the Harlem Renaissance and wanted this year’s theme to incorporate this meaningful milestone.

The period of the Harlem Renaissance was a time for the reformation of black culture and identity in America. As black people were no longer slaves, they had the ability to create their own space in society. Harlem became the Mecca of all things politics, art and film for black Americans that eventually spread across the country.

This month is an opportunity for black students, and the GW community at large, to reclaim things that have been lost or stolen from their identity. Through these events, we hope to cultivate a sense of community and restore misappropriated spaces. BHC is a time to shine a positive light on the black community, contradicting the negativity that is ingrained in our academic institutions.

As we enter a new decade, year and election cycle, this anniversary is more important than ever for black Americans across the country to redefine their culture. Through various outlets, we have the opportunity to personally and professionally develop skills that will give us the chance to utilize our abilities well beyond the Foggy Bottom limits. Our exploration of our roots and cultural differences will help provide clarity and reconciliation within ourselves.

It is important for GW black students to “reclaim” this month to highlight to their peers, professors and administrators that their identity is imperative to their educational experience. The burden does not solely lie on the black community, but rather, it is necessary for all to step up, and even step back in order to make room for the revival.

And to the GW black community: In an age where the commodification of the black experience is pervasive, let this be a reminder to never repress your blackness.

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