How UA Celebrates Black History Month

What month is this? And don’t say February because although it most certainly is, that’s not the answer I’m looking for. If you haven’t figured it out by now this is Black History Month. Being that this is my first spring semester on campus I was curious to see how UA celebrates. The University at Albany is a large school that teaches over 17,000 students a year, 16% of which are African American compared to the 43% of white students in attendance. With such a smaller percentage of students being black there are several organizations dedicated to the uplifting, unification, and productivity of the black student body. 

One organization, in particular, is A.S.U.B.A — Albany State University Black Alliance — originated from the Educational Opportunities Program — These students with the help of others banded together and demanded the establishment of Black and Puerto Ricans studies program. Forty years later these programs still exist as the Africana Studies Department and the Latin Caribbean studies department. For forty years, ASUBA has remained committed to excellence in education, political action, cultural awareness, and community service on a national and local level. In the Albany area, the alliance has perpetuated its commitment to service, cultural responsibility, and social development to all. The Albany State University Black Alliance has always been known for its political activism and educational commitment as well as its community service. In case you were wondering yes… yes I am in ASUBA. Proudly at that, I joined in the fall of 2021 and haven’t looked back since. The Albany State University Black Alliance (ASUBA) will host a two-day Hip Hop and Black Arts Conference from Friday, Feb. 11 to Sunday, Feb. 13. The conference will address the significant impact that hip-hop and black arts culture have on the lives of our youth. Among the highlights are Professor Griff and Chuck D from the rap group Public Enemy, live jazz music, and Universal Poetics. There will be workshops on topics such as The Origin of Hip Hop, and The Media and its Stereotyping of the Culture.

In addition to the existence of this organization, the University at Albany has invited Frank Pogue, founder of the Martin Luther King Luncheon, to be the keynote speaker at the 21st annual luncheon at noon, February 17, in the Campus Center Ballroom. Black History Month is an opportunity to celebrate the achievements and contributions of African Americans to this country and the world as well as to pause and remember the sacrifices and struggles of people of African descent. This is the perfect time to reflect on struggles and achievements and treat them in such a manner as to give meaning and perspective, clarity and insights, and balance and proportion to the total African American experience, said Leonard A. Slade Jr., professor of Africana Studies.

 On Thursday, Feb. 3 at 4:30 p.m., Africana Studies presented a Colloquy on the Black Family by department professors Marcia Sutherland and Sharon Parkinson, in Humanities 039.

For music lovers, the Department of Africana Studies hosted a concert by the Black Apostolate Choir on Friday, Feb. 4, at 7 p.m. in the Recital Hall of the Performing Arts Center. The choir is from St. George’s Catholic Church in Albany. The cost to attend is $2.

A Diversity Topics Film Series, held on Thursdays at noon in Campus Center 370, kicks off on Thursday, Feb. 10, with The Essential Blue-Eyed. The film will offer an opportunity to experience a full-length workshop with Jane Elliott, one of America’s most celebrated diversity trainers. Her blue-eyed/brown-eyed exercise, recognized as a groundbreaking experiment in anti-racism training, has been featured on Today, The Tonight Show, and Oprah. Sue Faerman, dean of Undergraduate Studies, and Carl Martin, assistant vice president for Student Affairs, will be facilitators. This film series is for those who want to learn more about how prejudice impacts both individuals and society and what each of us can do to make a difference. It is co-sponsored by the Department of Student Life, the Division of Student Affairs, the campus affiliate of the National Coalition Building Institute (NCBI), Academic Support Services, Women’s Studies, and the Department of Africana Studies.

On Tuesday, Feb. 15, Lillian Williams, a professor in the Department of Women’s Studies, will read from her new book, Strangers in the Land of Paradise: The Creation of an African-American Community in Buffalo, New York, 1900-1940. The reading, sponsored by Africana Studies, will be held at 4:30 p.m. in Humanities 039.

Allen Ballard, professor of Africana Studies and history, and Joyce DeWitt Parker, a staff psychologist with the University Counseling Center, will be guest facilitators for the second film series showing, A Question of Color, on Wednesday, Feb. 16. This is the first documentary to confront the dynamic at work for some African Americans who harbor negative feelings about themselves and their appearance.

The third film series feature, on Thursday, Feb. 24, will be Skin Deep, which chronicles the eye-opening journey of a diverse and divided group of college students as they explore their prejudices, acknowledge past hurts, and try to understand each other’s racial attitudes. Carson Carr, associate dean of Undergraduate Studies, and Vivien Ng, chair of the Women’s Studies Department, will serve as guest facilitators.

The film series will conclude with Prejudice: The Monster Within, on March 2. The video will address many troubling questions, including why prejudice has always been with us, how we can identify it in ourselves, and how we can work to end it. Guest facilitators will be Nancy Belowich-Negron, director of the Office of Disabled Student Services and chair of the campus affiliate chapter of NCBI, and Anthony Torres, director of Multicultural Student Services.

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