Monday marked the beginning of Black History Month, a time to commemorate Black Americans and celebrate Black history.
Although the COVID-19 pandemic bars groups from gathering indoors, various organizations and departments around Temple University implemented virtual programs and initiatives scheduled throughout February to celebrate Black History Month.
The Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection and the Department of Africology and African American Studies is holding a series of virtual events featuring guest speakers, while Temple Student Government will raise awareness around the contributions of Black people in history to students using social media.
The Department of Africology and African American Studies is holding a series of events this month to highlight Black history and how Black people are impacted by current events, said Molefi Kete Asante, chair of the Department of Africology and African American Studies.
On Feb. 6 at 6 p.m. on Zoom, the department will host “Racial Implications of Washington Insurrection of Jan. 6, 2021: Africological Analysis.” The event will feature discussions hosted by Aaron Smith, an Africology and African American studies professor, on how race played a role in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol and the historical context related to mob culture.
“It’s important we highlight the racial separation that was present at the Washington insurrection,” Asante said. “We need to talk about how the people who invaded the Capitol were treated differently than the Black Lives Matter protesters.”
On Feb. 25 at 5 p.m., guest speaker Haki Madhubuti, a poet and award-winning publisher, will host “The Sixties in Light of Black Lives Matter Movement.” Asante feels this event, which is open to the entire Temple community, is an important way to connect the past with the present, he said.
“It’s easy for people to forget whose shoulders they’re standing on,” Asante said. “Many of the young poets such as Amanda Gorman are standing on the shoulders of Haki Madhubuti and Sonia Sanchez, so we need to highlight their contributions.”
The Blockson Collection is also hosting a variety of virtual events featuring guest speakers, like “Author Talk: Joyce Mosley, ‘Gram’s Gift’” that will highlight Mosely’s novel which tells a story of a Black family with African, European, and Native American roots.
On Feb. 23 at 2 p.m., “A History of the Montford Point Marines” will reflect on the service of Black veterans like Cecil B. Moore, a Black civil rights activist and lawyer. Members of the Montford Point Marines, a nonprofit veterans organization founded to honor the first Black Marines, will speak at the event to discuss Moore’s legacy.
Moore acquired leadership skills in civil rights activism during his time in the U.S. military in World War II, said Diane Turner, curator of the Blockson Collection.
“We’re really excited about being able to highlight Cecil B. Moore and other originals that are still living,” Turner said. “He’s among the first African Americans to serve in the U.S. Marines, despite unfortunately not being treated very well.”
Despite having various programs scheduled for Black History Month, Turner acknowledges the benefits and limitations of virtual events, she said.
“It’s been somewhat of a challenge considering our large audience of seniors that would usually come to the collection that might not be very computer savvy,” Turner said. “The one advantage of Zoom is that we can have individuals from anywhere in the country tune into our program.”
The Blockson Collection also set up a phone number that viewers can dial to hear the program on their phones rather than logging on to Zoom, Turner said.
Nasia McNeill, TSG’s director of campus life and diversity, plans to light the Bell Tower green each night for the month of February as a symbol of prosperity, growth and fertility
The tradition started last year, but McNeill felt it was important for it to continue, especially after the turbulence of the COVID-19 pandemic, Black Lives Matter protests in the summer and the riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, she said.
“The past year has been a lot considering COVID, the Black Lives Matter movement and all other historic events that have happened,” said McNeill, a sophomore health professions major. “I just feel like for the Black community and for Black students at Temple, it would be really important to keep this tradition going.”
TSG also plans to post on their social media accounts daily to highlight Black activists, actors and musicians that historically don’t get much attention during Black History Month, McNeill said. Some of the posts will include Black Americans who made significant contributions in the 21st century.
McNeill also reached out to the Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity, Advocacy and Leadership to collaborate on programming for Black History Month, she said.
She hopes these initiatives will further TSG’s desire to be diverse and inclusive by allowing for more initiatives about Black history even after February, McNeill added.
“Inclusivity on Temple’s campus all sounds like ideals and everyone wants that, but there’s so much that goes into it,” McNeill said. “TSG as a whole has really done and tries to strive to not only educate but show the importance of representation and how that matters.”
Turner hopes these programs will educate viewers and provide them with knowledge they might not have encountered otherwise, she added.
“Unfortunately the school system doesn’t reflect the diversity that’s in American society,” Turner said. “The best way to get people to understand Black history is to educate them.”
Black History Month Events
Unedited Philadelphia: North Philadelphia Vignettes, Tuesday Feb. 2, 6 p.m.
“Racial Implications of Washington Insurrection on January 6, 2021: Africology Analysis”, Saturday, Feb. 6, 2 p.m.
Joyce Mosley: Author Talk, Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2 p.m.
Deborah Willis: Author Talk, Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2 p.m.
Underground Railroad Conference, Chair, Dr. Nilgun Anadolu-Okur, Wednesday, Feb. 17, 1 p.m.
A History of Montford Point Marines: The First African Americans to serve in the U.S. Marines, Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2 p.m.
Black Philly Artists Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon, Wednesday, Feb. 24, 1 p.m.
“The Sixties in Light of Black Lives Matter Movement”, Dr. Haki Madhubuti, Friday, Feb. 26, 5 p.m.