Black History brings diverse events to campus

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Students, faculty and eminent speakers converge on campus in February to celebrate Black History Month and the many contributions of black culture.

Among the distinguished visitors that the University will host this month are political science and African American studies professor Khalilah Brown-Dean and Tulane law professor Ray Diamond ’73 LAW ’77. Brown-Dean and Diamond are expected to discuss modern-day race relations in politics and law as part of a “Mental Pabulum” series, which is sponsored by the Afro-American Cultural Center and the Black Student Alliance at Yale (BSAY). Last Friday, Poet and civil rights activist Nikki Giovanni read selections of her poetry — much of which deals with race relations in America — and delivered a keynote address at a dinner in Calhoun College.

Rashayla Brown ’04, contact director at the Afro-American Cultural Center, said the Afro-American house will host numerous speakers even after the end of Black History Month. She said she thinks the numerous speakers coming to the University will attract a variety of students and raise awareness about the achievements of African Americans.

“Our plans for the month are very extensive,” Brown said. “[The Afro-American Cultural Center] will have lots of different speakers to attract different people and their interests.”

Brown is the director of “Cultural Caravan,” a program designed to enrich awareness of black history in the New Haven community. The caravan — which travels to numerous elementary and middle schools in the New Haven school system — features a student-friendly ensemble of song and dance that re-enacts important events in African American history.

Members of the student body will also use their own talents in presentations scheduled for February and beyond. In early March, Natalie Paul ’07 and Jamice Oxley ’06 will direct a performance of the play “For Colored Girls Who Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf,” written by Ntozake Shange. The play, written in a combination of prose and poetry, focuses on the lives and concerns of black girls in the 21st century.

Elizabeth Ashamu ’06, social chairwoman of the Yale African Students Association, said her group is planning a cultural show in late February in cooperation with the Yale West Indian Students Organization. Centering their performance around Ananzi, the spider found in many African folktales, cast members will entertain the audience with dance, music, poetry and speeches in celebration of African and African Caribbean culture.

“It’s going to be a very exciting month because everyone is finding a way to contribute their talents,” Ashamu said.

Lianne Labossiere ’06, events coordinator for the Yale West Indian Students Organization, said black students of Haitian descent are currently planning a conference to celebrate Haiti’s bicentennial and to discuss current issues in the small Caribbean nation. Labossiere said she thinks the events planned for Black History Month in February will raise awareness in the University about the diversity within black culture.

“I feel great. I think it’s going to be a great month,” Labossiere said. “There’s so much going on between all of the different groups on campus.”

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