Acknowledging both the historic contributions of members of the global black community and the continuing contemporary challenges the black community faces, the University of Arizona is hosting various public events in recognition of Black History Month.
The theme of this year's UA events relates to the teachings of the late W.E.B. Du Bois, an academic activist and scholar who became the first African American to earn a doctorate from Harvard University. Organizers urge the community to reflect on the work of Du Bois while considering the assimilation and acculturation of members of the black community, and how such experiences inform the lives of other groups.
"A fair number of scholars, public intellectuals and everyday folks of every hue spend a lot of time defining blackness for the people who live it – African Americans as well as Africans living outside of Africa," said April D.J. Petillo, a doctoral candidate in the American Indian Studies program and one of the UA Black History Month event organizers.
"The truth is that there is not one experience which defines blackness. The very need to categorize and define blackness – as well as how assimilated a particular expression of blackness is – carries on what Du Bois explained as beginning with the links between colonialism, capitalism, imperialism and racism," said Petillo, also a graduate assistant and community facilitator for African American Student Affairs.
"If we are committed to social justice today, we need to understand the foundations of injustice as well as the critiques of that injustice that came before."
Petillo said organizers hope that "people, regardless of their ethnicity, will take this as an opportunity to think about the preconceived notions of blackness that they rely on every day."
"All of us have inherited ideas and stereotypes because they are embedded in our social fabric. We need to examine these if we are going to move beyond the need to ignore our differences and towards creating true social justice," Petillo added. "Du Bois asks us to look beyond those inherited ideas and stereotypes, into our very souls, to understand that our identities are not defined by these external, ill-conceived definitions. That is where social justice begins. That is where we hope people's reflections will lead."
The full UA Black History Month calendar of events is available online. Additional information is available on AASA's Facebook page.
UA Black History Month events include:
Throughout February: Arizona Public Media will present an extensive lineup of special programming in observance of Black History Month. Programming will air on PBS 6, World, the UA Channel and NPR 89.1. Program highlights include "American Masters: 'Alice Walker-Beauty in Truth,'" on Feb. 7 at 2 p.m.; "Independent Lens: 'Spies of Mississippi'" on Feb. 10 at 2 p.m.; and "American Promise" on Feb. 3 at 10 p.m. For a complete list of programs, dates and times, visit Arizona Public Media online.
Feb. 3: "Black in Latin America – An ASA Dinner & Dialogue Series" kicks off with an exploration of the work of American scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. on how Latin America has been touched by African influences. Sponsored by the African Student Association, the series also will consider ways that the work of Gates may inform experiences along the U.S.-Mexico border. Additional discussions will be held Feb. 10, Feb. 17 and March 3, with all events happening 6-7:30 p.m. at the UA Martin Luther King Jr. Student Center, 1322 E. First St. Participants are invited to bring their own dinner.
Feb. 6: "Blackness & Race Politics in Japanese Hip Hop: A Talk by Dr. Dawn-Elissa Fischer" will be held at 6:30 p.m. in the Dorothy Rubel Room of the UA Poetry Center. Fischer, an assistant professor at San Francisco State University, teaches courses on black popular culture, information technology and visual ethnography.
Feb. 7: The "Unraveling the Myths" talk will be held 1-3 p.m. at the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Center, 1322 E. First St. In conjunction with National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, the campus community is invited to participate in a discussion about the myths associated with HIV/AIDS. Free confidential HIV testing and lunch will be provided to all in attendance.
Feb. 8: Soprano and UA alumna Shermayne Brown, winner of the Harlem Opera Theater Voice Competition, and Africana studies assistant professor Bryan Carter will present scenes from the life of "Everywoman" in the context of the African American experience. Within the virtual reality created by Carter, Brown will sing settings of Langston Hughes' poetry composed by Margaret Bonds and Hale Smith, as well as other partnerships of composers and writers. The event will be held 11 a.m.-12:15 p.m. at the UA BookStores, located in the Lower Level of the Student Union.
Feb. 12: "America Beyond the Color Line – A BSU Dinner & Dialogue Series" continues after the Feb. 3 launch with an investigation of the work of Henry Louis Gates Jr. The community is invited to join the Black Student Union in a discussion about the work of Gates in relation to the black experience and also race and ethnic relations in the U.S. Events also will be held on Feb. 19 and March 5 from 6-7:30 p.m. at the UA Martin Luther King Jr. Student Center. Participants are invited to bring their own dinner.
Feb. 18: "The Era of Trayvon: Understanding Stand Your Ground Laws" will be held 11:45 a.m.-1 p.m. in the Ares Auditorium, Room 164, of the James E. Rogers College of Law, 1201 E. Speedway Blvd. The discussion is part of the Black Law Student Association's Black History Month Panel Series. The discussion will cover stand your ground laws and other legislation.
Feb. 24: "Civil Rights, Economics, and Global Studies: An Africana Studies Panel Discussion" will be held at 4 p.m. in the Ventana Room of the Student Union Memorial Center. UA faculty members Althea Tait, Bonnie Wasserman and Bayo Ijagbemi of the UA Africana Studies Program and also Anne Garland Mahler of the UA Department of Spanish and Portuguese will share some of their latest work covering African American literature, the Atlantic slave trade, business in Africa and the impact of the African American civil rights and the Cuban revolutions. The event will be moderated by Tani Sanchez, a UA adjunct lecturer of African studies.
Feb. 25: "60 Years After Brown v. Board: African Americans in Education" will be held 11:45 a.m.-1 p.m. in the Ares Auditorium at the law school. This discussion, a part of the Black Law Student Association Black History Month Panel Series, looks at the progression of African Americans in education. Lunch will be provided.
Feb. 28: The Black History Month Block Party will be held 6-9 p.m. on the UA Mall. The event will include music, spoken word performances and food.