Black History Month a multicultural affair

Christie Ileto

The Northwestern Community Ensemble was created in 1971 after a long push to create the gospel group — and Tiffany Beard wants the NU community to remember this struggle.

“Our goal is to keep as much passion and commitment as when it was first established in 1971,” said Beard, a Communication junior and president of NCE.

The gospel choir will perform its winter concert with various artists March 5 at Cahn Auditorium as part of Black History Month.

The concert is just one way NU will celebrate this year’s theme for Black History Month, “Black Movements, Looking Back While Reaching Forward.”

To honor the theme, the African American Student Affairs office will sponsor a series of conversations with black students and staff members. The events will correspond to Black History Month’s national theme that marks the 100th anniversary of the Niagara Movement, a black organized movement of the 20th century.

Civil rights leader W.E.B. DuBois and other black activists lead the movement, laying the foundation for the National Association of Advancement for Colored People, which was formed in 1905.

This year, four guest speakers will help honor Black History Month.

Political science Prof. Michael Hanchard, also a director of NU’s Institute for Diaspora Studies, kicked off the series of speakers Monday night. Hanchard discussed modern African identity.

Other speakers include Mara Brock Akil, creator and executive producer of the UPN series “Girlfriends”; Art Norman, co-anchor of NBC5 News in Chicago; and African American studies Prof. James Turner, an NU alumnus who works at Cornell University.

Turner will describe a first-hand account of the 1968 takeover of the Bursar’s office. At that time students demanded the creation of the Black House and the African American studies department, and for administrators to pursue 10 percent enrollment of black students.

“We (the Black History Month Committee) wanted to highlight our own faculty and alumni,” said Johnny Hill, acting director of African American Student Affairs. “We have brilliant scholars, and we want to try to lift them up.”

Most of the programs will be held at the Black House, 1914 Sheridan Road, but some events will be at larger venues.

The main point of Black History Month is to highlight the contributions of African Americans to the United States, said Kathleen Bethel, an African American studies librarian.

“It is important to introduce students to new topics and alleviate the problems with how Black History Month is presented,” she said.

Other events beyond speakers will be more performance-based, such as “Out Da Box,” on Feb. 17. The African American Theatre Ensemble will sponsor this student comedy show.

The African American Theatre Ensemble also will perform March 1 at Norris University Center and will blend poetry with the prose of black poets from the 1960s and ’70s.

The Department of African American Student Affairs also has coordinated events with the Multicultural Center.

“Being under the multicultural division we all jump on board to celebrate all the months,” said Ronnie Rios, acting director of Latino/Hispanic Student Affairs. “We partake and support one another’s events.”

Cultural Fest, which showcases the culture of Spanish Caribbean islands, is one of several multicultural events celebrating Black History Month. It will take place Feb. 16 and is sponsored by Hispanic and Latino Student Affairs, Alianza and Sigma Lambda Gamma.

Reach Christie Ileto at [email protected].