The month of February marks a very important month in American History. It is a month where historical African-Americans are highlighted and celebrated.
The celebrations commenced on Feb. 4. The Student Community Center (SCC) Dining Hall held a dinner in celebration of Black History Month. The Dining Hall was elaborately decorated for this celebration and southern style food was served.
On Feb. 10, the Black History Month Celebration was at its peak in the Greenfelder-Denlinger Boardroom of the SCC from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Heather Parker, an associate professor of history at Saint Leo University, hosted the event, which was widely supported by the students, members of the community, and staff.
Parker pointed out that the purpose of the event was to raise the awareness of the contributions done by African-Americans whether culturally, politically, or socially in the United States of America. In addition, the boardroom was filled with posters, which illustrated various legends such as Oprah Winfrey, Jimi Hendrix, Ray Charles, and many others who have contributed to the United States of America.
Students from classes at Saint Leo participated by creating posters of influential black figures, philosophers, and politicians. Several rows of posters were displayed and the students were present to explain them. Influential people were observed from Winston Churchill to Bob Marley. There were books by published African-American authors in the boardrooms. All day a “What History Means To Me” sounding board was played. Also shown intermediately throughout the day was a Jazz documentary of Ken Burns.
“I believe that the black students really enjoyed the event and they enjoyed participating in it by creating posters, dancing, singing, and reciting poems,” Parker said.
At noon, the poetry portion of the evening commenced, starting with slam poetry. Guest poet and storyteller Valada Llewellyn later took the stage after which more slam poetry was performed. There was also a dance performance by Saint Leo’s very own Caribbean Association dance group and, at 2:30 p.m., presentations of important African-American figures were presented.
Parker also ensured that the event was broad enough for everybody so that everyone could be aware of the achievements of black people and never to lose insight of black history.
“This was really great, I really enjoy seeing the different aspects of my culture being appreciated, and I love the diversity being presented,” said Jonathan Chan Jon Chu, a sophomore.
The event drew 460 people, which Parker considers a success.
A generous amount of the Saint Leo community, in addition to guests, attended this open house, perusing the displays and sampling the food. Professors also encouraged their students to attend by allotting them extra credit to participate; a checklist provided by the Department, which listed all the activities for the day that you would have viewed, aided this. The checklist was stamped by the reception desk at the front upon one’s departure from the event.
“I am looking forward to next year in order to continue uplift black society,” Parker said.
Saint Leo University’s choir performance was quite stunning and the song that stole the audiences’ heart was sung by Maurqise McGill (“Make Them Hear You”). McGill is a freshman, who is currently majoring in middle school education with a focus in English.
“By singing ‘Make Them Hear You’ in a powerful tone was my way of expressing the fact that we still have to fight as an African-American to be heard, seen and taken seriously,” McGill said.
He further stated that this celebration is extremely important to him as a black student and he is proud to know that Saint Leo is interested in his history.
Cynthia Selph, assistant professor of music, led the choir.
“It was a great experience and the singers had instruments to participate and we used different people to participate and they were happy,” Selph said.
Selph was indeed pleased with her students. They sang in Swahili (the official language of Kenya and Tanzania), which was new to them, and they performed well.
Saint Leo University used this opportunity to extend its home to students from all cultural diversities. In recognition of the school’s tremendous work, Saint Leo University won 2014 HR Tampa Diversity Awards.