Black History Month Honored on Campus
By Diana Anghel
This year's national theme for Black History Month is Black Resistance, meant to symbolize the triumphs, successes and progress of the Black community through historic and ongoing oppression. The Bruce D. Nesbitt African American Cultural Center (BNAACC) in Urbana took this theme and turned it their own: "Black Joy is Resistance."
The center has hosted a variety of events this month, from poetry readings and seminars, to book talks and fundraisers. The overarching goal of this month, and any month, is to educate the community and bring awareness to Black History, said Jazmyne Kellogg, Director of BNAACC.
"Black history is American history, so I think it's incredibly important, especially when we consider our political landscape currently and historically around the erasure of Black voices, Black bodies, and the diversity of what those Black voices and Black bodies looked like," she said. "The continued practice of telling our story, writing our stories down and archiving them, is super important to combat the erasure."
Kellogg said the center started recruiting students for their Black History Month committee back in the fall, reaching out to a wide-net of students to ensure diverse perspectives were included. The committee decided to look at Black resistance through the lens of Black joy, a perspective based on an Adrienne Maree Brown quote: "There is no way to repress pleasure and expect liberation, satisfaction, or joy.”
Across campus, other groups were active in bringing Black voices to the surface this month. Women of Color (WOC) UIUC, a registered student organization whose goal is to educate and empower minority women across campus and the community, participated in several panels, trivia nights and cosponsorships with other organizations.
Iyanla “La La” Smith, President of WOC UIUC, said that it's important to live out the Black experience as a student.
"Black history shouldn't be specified to just a month," she said. "Every day is a day for not only celebrating Black History, but celebrating individual history, as well."
Smith said that social media is a great place to start learning about Black history, but making real-life connections such as through cultural centers and student organization makes for understanding and communication.
To learn more about BNAACC, visit https://oiir.illinois.edu/bnaacc.