Black history events wind down

As February draws to a close, so too do the plethora of events that papered bulletin boards for this year’s Black History Month.

Filled with performances, speeches, dinners and discussions coordinated by both undergraduate and graduate organizations, the events of this year’s Black History Month brought a diverse array of issues to light, inspiring thought about heritage, history and roots through talks with revered figures in the black community. Though attendees said they enjoyed hearing the speakers, some students said they thought the month’s events lacked visibility.

Black History Month celebrations began Feb. 1 with a talk by Dwight Raiford ’71, the first speaker in a four-part series, “Life After Yale,” that was sponsored by the Afro-American Cultural Center. The series consisted of dinners with black alumni, who spoke to students about their careers following college, including work in finance, clinical psychology and publishing.

“The Black History Month dinners were wonderful and very dynamic with salient topics,” said Elaine Rene ’07, a member of the Af-Am House staff. “They gave us great recommendations for action.”

Many said one of the month’s greatest highlights was a discussion and reading with renowned author Jamaica Kincaid, who read selections from her most recent work, “Among Flowers: A Walk in the Himalayas,” in the Sterling Memorial Library Lecture Hall for a crowd of approximately 150 students.

“It was a wonderful event with an amazing author that brought a very diverse audience together,” Rene said.

But while the events were varied, some students said they felt that there was not enough publicity for the month’s celebrations.

“The events were very accessible, but I don’t think there was as much enthusiasm as I was expecting,” Thalyn George ’09 said. “It didn’t seem too different from any other month of the year, but at the same time it was great to have all of those events available.”

Lindsay Barbee ’09 said that after a recent trip to New York, she realized Yale did not have as much advertising related to Black History Month as she saw at Barnard College.

“I never saw any signs or posters in the residential colleges or dorm rooms, although I had a general idea of what was going on,” she said.

But organizers said they were pleased with the diverse audiences in attendance at the Black History Month celebrations.

“We had a range of events that were so incredibly different and catered to more than just one audience,” Af-Am House staff member Crystal Paul-Laughinghouse ’08 said. “It’s often expected that anything to do with the Af-Am House is to just draw in black students, but our purpose is to promote awareness, so I think we did a great job of making everything interesting to all audiences.”

In addition to discussions, many of the Black History Month events featured performances by student singing, dancing and theater organizations. On Feb. 4, the Yale Gospel Choir hosted its first annual alumni concert, a performance that occurred in conjunction with the Black Church at Yale’s 34th Anniversary Worship Service. The concert included a slide show tribute to famous icons of black history.

According to George, the publicity manager for the Gospel Choir, the following day’s events at the Black Church focused on the topic of roots of worship and African tradition.

“It was a really large, very unique service, and I enjoyed it a lot,” he said.

Other events during the month included a discussion with Sudanese refugees living in New Haven, a panel discussion on the meaning of Black History Month, a speech by filmmaker Haile Gerima, and an annual Black History Month dinner featuring San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris. During the dinner, which featured a performance by violinist Kersten Stevens ’06, Harris was presented with an award from the Af-Am House.

Black History Month was also celebrated at the School of Management, which hosted events organized by the school’s Black Business Alliance, including a discussion and showing of the movie “Crash,” a community service day and an annual Black History Month Dinner with a musical performance.

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