Black History Month 2021 comes on the heels of an exceedingly difficult and painful period for race relations in the United States—from people of color dying at the hands of police in multiple incidents around the country to rioters flaunting racist symbols at the U.S. Capitol during an insurrection intended to overturn the 2020 presidential election.
Buffalo State College is delving into some of the issues fueling racism while also recognizing the contributions of Black individuals during several virtual events to celebrate Black History Month.
The keynote speaker is anti-racism scholar, professor, author, and historian Ibram X. Kendi, who is delivering a free 60-minute lecture, “Confronting Racism in America,” on Monday, February 22, at 7:00 p.m. Buffalo State is cohosting his talk with Orange County Community College (SUNY Orange).
Kendi is the Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities at Boston University and the founding director of the BU Center for Antiracist Research. He is a contributing writer at the Atlantic and a CBS News racial justice contributor. Kendi is also the 2020–2021 Frances B. Cashin Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University and the author of many books, including Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, which won the 2016 National Book Award for Nonfiction; How to Be an Antiracist; and Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You, coauthored with Jason Reynolds. His newest book, Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619–2019, was released this month.
Kendi’s lecture will feature a 45-minute interview-style presentation, followed by a 15-minute question-and-answer session developed from questions submitted in advance. Attendance is limited to the first 1,000 registrants, with space reserved for members of the Buffalo State and SUNY Orange communities. Members of the Buffalo State community can register for the event via a campus-specific online form. A registration form for the Western New York community is also online.
On Tuesday, February 23, from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m., the campus community and public are invited to participate in a follow-up discussion through the Diversity Dialogue Speaker Series, focusing on themes Kendi discussed. Crystal Rodriguez-Dabney, chief of staff to Buffalo State’s president and chief diversity officer, and Marcus Watson, assistant professor of Africana studies, will facilitate the conversation.
“We’ll use some of the ideas Dr. Kendi introduced as a jumping-off point for a discussion about how his lessons connect to Buffalo State and the community at large,” Rodriguez-Dabney said. “I’m looking forward to the opportunity to delve deeper into issues that may be difficult to talk about but are so important to address head-on.”
Watson added, “I hope Kendi’s talk pushes us toward being increasingly forthright about confronting the deeply ingrained White supremacist and anti-Black foundation of our society so that we can live as equals and heal for the sake of ourselves and the generations to come.”
Members of the campus community and the public may register for the discussion online.
An addition to the Black History Month celebration this year is a campus-sponsored discussion of the 1619 Project, the ongoing New York Times initiative introduced in August 2019, the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery. It examines the consequences of slavery and reframes the country’s history by highlighting the contributions of Black Americans. The Student Leadership and Engagement Office and the Dean of Students Office are cohosting the discussion on Thursday, February 18, at noon.
“We wanted to do something that not only celebrates Black History Month but also provides students a platform to discuss the painful parts of our history that relate to the experience of the African American community,” said Luke Haumesser, associate director for student leadership and engagement, adding that while the event is geared toward students, faculty and staff members are also encouraged to participate.
“We believe it is always good when students, faculty, and staff can come together to discuss important issues like these,” he said. “It’s an opportunity to learn from each other. We hope students feel comfortable discussing these issues and what it means for us today to create a more socially just world.”
Please register online ahead of time.
Other Black History Month events taking place in February:
Top and bottom photos: Detail from artist Don Miller’s mural in the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library, District of Columbia Public Library; Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress.
Photo of Ibram X. Kendi by Stephen Voss.
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