Black History Month brings diverse opportunities

IAN LACK Lifestyles Reporter

This week marks the beginning of a month-long celebration of Black History. Since 1976, February has been designated Black History Month.

South Dakota State University offers several courses in African American studies but no formal program for the studies. However, SDSU does offer Black Student Alliance, and for years, BSA has largely led events on campus recognizing black history and acknowledging African American contributions to society during Black History Month.

This year’s events kicked off in January with the MLK Remembrance Ceremony to honor the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The MLK-centered event was followed by a showing of, “Selma” Jan. 22, which acknowledged the challenges that Dr. King faced when trying to guarantee African Americans the right to vote.

The MLK ceremony also called to mind the recent string of young, male African American deaths that happened in association with America’s police force. On Jan. 21, this emphasis was heightened with a discussion about “The Ferguson Effect” and the dynamics of modern racism.

 On Feb. 4, BSA will host a student-led discussion on social sensitivity and political correctness in regards to race on campus and in the country.

 The BSA Step Show weekend will kick off on Feb. 5, with a performance stand-up comedian, Erik Clark, in Jacks’ Place. This will be followed by BSA’s 13th Annual Step Show Feb 6. President of BSA, Semehar Ghebrekidan, said she is most excited for the Step Show this year since it will be her final year as captain of the Step Team.

 “I’m so excited to present my Ladies BSA Step Team. We’ve really learned a lot together and I’m really excited to show them off because we’ve put in a lot of hard work over the semester and we can’t wait to put on our show for other students,” Ghebrekidan says.

BSA said it is proud to be hosting the Black History Knowledge Bowl, a friendly game of identifying various events in black history while learning about them. Another event to increase education on African American heritage occurs on Feb. 22 with a Soul Food Luncheon in the Multicultural Center where students can try traditional soul food.

 Kas Williams acts as program adviser for African American Programs. While working at the Multicultural Center, she emphasized that the center attempts to “always be a balance of social, educational and entertaining” in their events.

 “I think it’ll be really interesting to expose the campus to what soul food tastes like,” Williams said. “On the educational front, it’s great that we’ll have the opportunity for students to experience what real African American food is and what we ate back in the day.”

However, recently several major news outlets around the country have begun to ask whether specifically acknowledging African American accomplishments and heritage was somehow segregating black history from the majority of studies.

 “Of course, I think a lot of students probably know the names Obama and Martin Luther King, but do they know the names Wilma Rudolph or Jackie Robinson?

Mainstream history doesn’t always teach what exactly American history is,” Ghebrekidan said. “I think Black History Month is all about making sure that these names aren’t forgotten.”

Assistant Professor Laura Renèe Chandler has been at SDSU for three years and specializes in African American and Women’s studies. She says she commends the College of Arts and Sciences and SDSU for it’s focus on African American studies and affirms that African American history is American history.

“I do think that it starts there, with studying African American history–that we can start to end racism. It’s not just a matter of learning the history, it’s also what we do with it,” Chandler said. “I think there’s still a lot that African American studies has to teach us, especially when we look at issues like Black Lives Matter and mass incarceration within the country.”

While some offer the opinion that pro-African American acknowledgment is inversely damaging to ending segregation, BSA continues in bringing its diverse events to campus.

BSA Future Events

CommUNITY Meeting-Thoughts

12 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 4, @ AIECC

Comedy Series: Erik Clark

7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 5 @ Jacks’ Place (SSU)

13th Annual Step Show

7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 6 @ Performing Arts Center

Black History Knowledge Bowl

6 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 9 @ Jacks’ Place (SSU)

Film Series: From the Rough

6 p.m. @ Friday, Feb. 19 @ Jacks’ Place (SSU)

Soul Food Luncheon

12 p.m. Monday, Feb. 22 @ The Market (SSU)

CommUNITY Meeting: Words!

12 p.m. Thursday, March 3 @ AIECC

Latin American Knowledge Bowl

5 p.m. Tuesday, March 15 @ Jacks’ Place (SSU)

4th Annual Student Summit on Diversity & Inclusion

1 p.m. Saturday, March 19 @ The Market (SSU)

Cesar Chavez Day

11 a.m. Thursday, March 31 @ Main Street (SSU)

CommUNITY Meeting: Action

12 p.m. Thursday, April 7 @ AIECC