Updated: Feb. 9, 2023, at 2:11 p.m.
Students will pay homage to the Black generations of GW’s past, present and future with a month of collaborative, student-run programming at this year’s Black Heritage Celebration.
The month’s programming, titled “Black to the Future,” kicked off Wednesday with more than 20 events stretching through Black History Month hosted by more than 15 Black student organizations, including the African Student Association and the Black Girl Mentorship Program. BHC leaders said programming like a Black professor mixer, a guided tour of the National Museum of African American History and Culture and alumni events recognizing past generations of Black students at GW will celebrate Black art and heritage on campus.
This year’s BHC will span four weeks, beginning Wednesday with a keynote event featuring comedian Amanda Seales. Student organizers said BHC will conclude with its annual Finale event Feb. 24, a final celebration of the month where students connect and unwind while reflecting on their identity and heritage.
Telease Bowen, a senior and co-chair of BHC, said this year’s theme is meant to honor the work and accomplishments of the past generations of Black students at GW who committed to bridging gaps between students and administrators and creating safe spaces on campus for Black students to be heard and support Black students of the future with a campus enriched with a powerful Black heritage and identity. The Multicultural Business Student Association will host “Bring the Alumni Back! Navigating Corporate America from a Black Perspective” in Duques Hall Thursday to provide insight from Black alumni about diving into the workforce, according to the BHC calendar.
BHC will hone in on Black history both at GW and throughout U.S. history with events like a guided tour of the National Museum of African American History and Culture Saturday. Programming like “A Better Black Future: The Progression of Black Women” Monday will celebrate the future of Black culture.
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Bowen said securing comedian Amanda Seales as BHC’s keynote speaker Wednesday was a highlight for BHC, kickstarting the month of events with a tone of “authenticity” and “realness” for students in the question-and-answer forum. Seales discussed topics ranging from Black friendships to advocating for yourself in the workplace before a crowd of more than 100 GW community members Wednesday.
“I think that she really fit the theme the best, like what’s the future and modeling those characteristics and qualities that we hope to impart on the future of Black GW,” Bowen said.
Moniah Dailey, a senior and co-chair of BHC, said the BHC committee – which is made of 10 students across Black student organizations – received increased levels of funding this year from officials in comparison to the past year. She said while requesting funding for BHC from officials, the committee stressed the need to invest in student groups who are regularly called on for University advertisements and “diversity shoots.”
“I think that was really one of the main focuses in our presentation is that you can use us for these things, but you’re not going to invest in us,” Dailey said. “And I think that really hit home so we were able to secure all the funding that we really needed.”
BHC funding dipped by more than $10,000 in 2022 during the first in-person celebration since the onset of the pandemic, paling in comparison to 2020 when the event’s budget peaked at $29,000.
Dailey said after six months of preparation, she feels fortunate to see the BHC committee’s work come to fruition over the course of Black History Month. She said she hopes the events give Black students a space to celebrate their Black heritage without worrying about the display of racism and violence against people of color that continues to make national headlines.
“I think that’s something we focus on, we see it on our screens all the time,” Dailey said. “So it’s something where it’s like, if you can turn it off for around an hour or two throughout your day, BHC is where you do it. And we just have fun, and then you get to go on about your life after that.”
Gianna Cook, a senior and the president of the Black Student Union, said this year’s BHC theme calls into focus the legacy that Black students are leaving for future generations of GW. She said events like BHC will further Black representation on campus, providing students with a space to connect with and celebrate their heritage.
“It honestly gives me a sense of pride feeling that I know all of the work that we have done, the things that we are putting into the community matter, that they’re going to live on past my life and past my tenure here at GW,” Cook said.
Cook said BSU hosted a “Sneaker Ball” Friday where students showcased their style through sneakers in Lerner Health & Wellness Center as a way to celebrate the launch of the month’s programming. She said she’s looking forward to attending Soul Revue, a showcase of Black talent hosted at the Jack Morton Auditorium on Feb. 18, featuring singing performances, dance numbers and skits.
“I think this event is to just get people excited for what Black GW has to offer and really just having that space for us to be represented in this idea of ‘for us, by us,’” Cook said.
Drew Dodd, a sophomore and the vice president of BSU, said this year’s theme of “Black to the Future” is a call back to BSU’s theme for the 2022-23 academic year, “The Black Renaissance,” which draws inspiration from Black creatives of the past as a way of channeling the sprit of the Harlem Renaissance.
“It’s about the legacy that has already been here and the legacy that we’re still leaving with us when we go,” Dodd said.
Senior Tino Stephens – the chair and organizer of the BHC’s Finale – said BHC sold a record-high of 360 tickets for Finale in the first two weeks of sales, an increase from roughly 320 last year. He said the Finale celebration, hosted at The Gathering Spot restaurant in Downtown, will offer students a space to unwind and have fun after a month of reflecting on Black heritage through BHC’s other offerings.
“So Finale is the place where you come, you’ve taken in information and you just relax and enjoy yourself,” Stephens said.
Senior Ya’Nassia Whetstone – the founder and president of Hairapeutic Beauty, a student organization helping students of color maintain and style their hair – said Hairapeutic will host a “Black Hairatage Showcase” in the University Student Center Feb. 17 where more than 30 models will wear 10 decades of hairstyles ranging from the 15th century to the early 2000s.
“We’ve evolved,” Whetstone said. “We’ve come a long way, we’ve had a lot of trials and errors and I think it is important to see that.”
She said GW models will highlight hairstyles from the 15th and 18th centuries, as well as from the 1990s, while other participating universities like George Mason and Howard will showcase the other periods.
“Hair’s art,” Whetstone said. “It’s a way to express yourself. It’s interesting to see how everyone was expressing themselves in the 1400s, 1500s and so on.”
Junior Brianna Taylor, the president of the Alpha Kappa Alpha, said the sorority will host an event Feb. 21 called “The Future of Black Love,” a conversation about Black relationships, both romantic and platonic.
“There’s different ways for us to have conversations about love within the Black community that can be community-oriented, can be platonic and can be romantic,” Taylor said.
Lisa Okooboh – a sophomore and the treasurer of the Black Girl Pre-Health Collective – said BGPC is hosting a Field Day event Feb. 15 on the third floor of the student center, where students can receive advice and resources for topics including mental health, sexual health and hygiene at a variety of stations.
“We hope that all students are able to enjoy this event and leave knowing more about how to properly take care of their body and hygienic needs,” Okooboh said in an email. “Overall we want this to be a fun and informational experience.”
Erika Filter contributed reporting.
This post has been updated to correct the following:
Due to an editing error, The Hatchet incorrectly linked to a 2022 BHC calendar and reported the Finale will occur Feb. 26. The Finale will occur Feb. 24. The link to the 2022 calendar has been removed. We regret this error.
This article appeared in the February 6, 2023 issue of the Hatchet.