Courtesy of the Black Student Alliance at Yale Instagram page

During the month of February, Yale and New Haven community organizers are honoring Black history and leaders past and present, through events and caravans alike.

New Haven organizations like the Greater New Haven Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Black Student Alliance at Yale and Ice the Beef will commemorate Black History Month in the coming weeks. The three organizations will host remote programming throughout the month over platforms including Zoom. This will include book talks and visiting scholar roundtables. New Haven anti-violence youth group Ice the Beef has also planned a caravan to attract attention to issues like gun violence and domestic abuse. For some New Haven organizers, a recent historical milestone — the inauguration of Kamala Harris, the first woman of color to serve as U.S. vice president — offers another reason to celebrate Black History Month this year.

“It’s significant, it is magical, it’s history in the making, it’s [Kamala Harris’] story,” Greater New Haven NAACP President Dori Dumas told the News. “We hope that this will open up the doors for so many, I know that it will.”

Dumas — who, like Harris, is a member of the historically Black Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. — said that she was excited about the newly inaugurated U.S. vice president and eager for the NAACP to work with the Biden-Harris administration. She said that there were still “many disparities for Black and brown communities across the nation,” and that the NAACP would continue to fight for racial equality and health equity, especially in light of COVID-19.

For Dumas’ chapter of the NAACP, this year’s Black History Month presents an opportunity to highlight her organization’s role in Black activism and social justice work. The group will turn 112 years old on Feb. 12.

The chapter will host Southern Connecticut State University professor Siobhan Carter-David on Feb. 18 for a talk on the history of the NAACP and Black diversity in the 21st century. The following week, on Feb. 24, the chapter will invite community members to discuss storytelling and the novel “Kindred” by Octavia Butler. Throughout the month, the organization’s Facebook page also plans to actively highlight Black-organized events and past African American leaders. 

Dumas said that the Greater New Haven NAACP has made an effort to “really uplift women” during this year’s celebrations.

Ice the Beef President Chaz Carmon echoed Dumas’ sentiments.

“I think it’s a great moment for Black History month, a great moment for all Black and brown people, but I think it’s also a great moment in history for women to be able to cement their legacy,” Carmon told the News, in reference to Harris’ inauguration. “I think it’s just women power, period. I’m very hopeful that we’ll see some change in the country.”

Ice the Beef will focus their programming this month on the issue of gun reform, an issue Carmon said he hopes to see reflected in the priorities of the new administration.

Ice the Beef has planned four different caravan and rally events to bolster awareness to the issues of domestic violence, gun violence and opioid addiction. One caravan will take place each Saturday. The first occurred in Hamden last Saturday; the next will occur on Feb. 6 in the Fair Haven neighborhood of the Elm City, beginning at 1 p.m. in front of the Columbus Family Academy. 

Ice the Beef will also hold a poetry slam via Zoom on Feb. 13. Carmon said the youth organization plans to host a future event in February for some of the group’s members to share their experiences canvassing in Georgia for the January 2021 special runoff election. 

On Yale’s campus, Black Student Alliance at Yale Co-President Eden Senay ’22 told the News she hopes Black History Month events can help foster community for a student body dispersed by a mostly virtual semester.

“We want to build and maintain community although our membership is all throughout the world, and that’s just even more important during Black History Month,” Senay said. 

BSAY events include a book discussion and tea with Emily Bernard ’89 GRD ’98 — sponsored by the Afro-American Cultural Center Winter Break Book Club — on Feb. 12 and a four-part Black Love series beginning at the end of this week on Feb. 5. Senay said that BSAY is also hosting a meeting on Feb. 16 to consider who Black History Month is celebrating and how to work towards social justice for marginalized groups throughout the month and year. 

While Senay is excited to highlight Black voices this month, she hopes the focus on Black voices continues throughout the year.

“The spirit of Black History Month should be folded into everyone’s everyday actions,” Senay told the News. “Every single day essentially should be lived with the intention of uplifting the voices of those who’ve been marginalized and working to undo and unlearn racist practices and beliefs in ourselves.” 

At 32.6 percent of New Haven’s population, Black residents compose the largest racial demographic category in the city, according to the U.S. Census Department’s 2019 American Community Survey.

Zaporah Price | zaporah.price@yale.edu