This month, renowned and rising black artists from across the country are making their way to the Hill to lead Kenyon in honoring Black History Month 2018. The celebration, organized by the Black Student Union (BSU) and funded in part by the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, will feature a series of events including poetry readings, empathy practicums and dance workshops.
This year’s celebration is held in honor of Allen B. Ballard Jr. ’52 and the late Stanley L. Jackson ’52, Kenyon’s first African American graduates. BSU President Eric Sutton ’18, a sociology and international studies double major from Indianapolis, is eager to see how these events will spark campuswide reflection and discussion.
“This year, we’re trying to branch across different genres and different people,” he says. “We’ve asked ourselves how we, as the Black Student Union, can intersperse ourselves in the student community and how we can reflect that interspersion in the artists we bring to Kenyon.”
It is a discussion that needs to be had, Sutton affirmed. While organizing these events, he has often been reminded of Maya Angelou’s celebrated poem, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.”
“Maya Angelou knows why the caged bird sings,” he said. “But how do you get people to understand why that bird is singing the way it is? That’s part of why Black History Month on this campus is so important.”
BSU Vice President Maymuna Abdi ’18, an international studies major from Hilliard, Ohio, agreed. “Especially in the past couple years, identifying as a black person has been a struggle. Having a month that brings awareness and celebration to our identity, to who we are, is very necessary,” she said. “But, even though we struggle at times, there are also so many good things about us, our culture, and the different cultures within the Black Diaspora. We want to share that with each other and share it with everyone else.”
The following events provide an opportunity to celebrate and reflect upon these cultures:
Friday, Feb. 9: Black History Fun Night at 7 p.m. at the Kenyon Athletic Center.
Thursday, Feb. 15: An exploration of the intersections of dance, blackness and womanhood at 11:10 a.m. in the Gund Gallery’s Community Foundation Theater.
Friday, Feb. 16: “Black Panther” film premiere at 10 p.m. at Premiere Theater 7 Mount Vernon.
Monday, Feb. 19: Screening of “Guelwaar” at 7 p.m. in the Gund Gallery’s Community Foundation Theater. The film, by legendary Senegalese director Ousmane Sembène, follows the controversy surrounding the burial of political activist Guelwaar and subsequent actions by the government.
Saturday, Feb. 24: Black tie formal at 10 p.m. in Colburn Hall.
Wednesday, Feb. 28: Screening of “Teach Us All” at 7 p.m. in the Gund Gallery’s Community Foundation Theater. After watching the documentary about inequality in education, representatives from City Year and Urban Teachers will host a discussion.
—Ben Hunkler ’20