Black History Month Celebrated at MC / Rachel Faulk

 Photo: Camryn Johnson showcases one of her favorite books in one of the library’s Black History Month displays. Johnson worked with Heather Moore to coordinate several book displays in the library to celebrate Black History Month.

Over the course of the month of February, MC students and organizations celebrated Black History Month in a variety of ways. A number of smaller events and projects led up to the highlight of the month, a theatrical production on Feb. 24 called “Celebrating the Black Legacy.”

Senior Camryn Johnson, founder and president of the Multicultural Student Association (MSA), recognized the importance of celebrating Black History Month on MC’s campus. “It’s a month to celebrate Black history, celebrate Black people from the beginning all the way up to now,” Johnson said. “It’s a moment to celebrate who we are, not necessarily focusing on the bad side of history but the good side of history where we’ve had people thrive and overcome a lot of things.”

Johnson added that it is important to her to celebrate not only Black History Month but also Hispanic Heritage Month, Native American Heritage Month, and other such months, “because we have students and faculty and staff here who make up those populations, so we want to make sure that we include and make everyone feel celebrated.”

Those celebrations took a variety of forms over the course of the month. 

To start off Black History Month, the Cross-Cultural Committee hosted a business expo on the Quad highlighting small, minority-owned businesses in the Jackson area. Businesses present included an African art gallery, a vegan restaurant, mental health-based businesses, as well as a few student organizations.

Johnson also worked with Heather Moore, Head of Special Collections at the Leland Speed Library, to put up book displays highlighting Black History Month. Book displays were set up by the library entrance, in the Discovery room, and downstairs by the juvenile section. A display highlighting MC’s first African American graduates was also set up on the main floor by the entrance.

Similarly, the RA staff in West made posters highlighting lesser-known Black historical figures and put them up in the dorms across campus. 

“Bree Chastang, she came up with the idea, and she asked me to help her,” explained Queen Washington, one of the RAs in West. “It started off just for West, but I was like, why not just make posters for everybody?” 

Washington, who is also chair of the Cross-Cultural Committee, added, “I think it’s great when you’re walking around and you see something that you recognize or you just feel appreciated in some way. Because [the Cross-Cultural Committee] did the same thing last semester, for Hispanic Heritage Month, and a lot of people enjoyed that, just seeing your culture and the famous people in your culture outside of the basics. One thing I was focusing on is getting people outside of, you know, MLK, Malcolm X, Rosa Parks, W. E. B. Du Bois—just something that people don’t know about.”

Beyond these more subtle projects, the highlight of the month was the campus-wide program held in Swor Auditorium on Feb. 24, “Celebrating the Black Legacy.” The show was a dramatization of the eras and events of Black history, including the kingdoms of Africa, slavery in America and emancipation, the Jim Crow era and the Selma March, a focus on powerful Black women, President Obama’s inauguration, and the Black Lives Matter movement.

Johnson is the creator and director of the program. She got the idea for the program while watching the Swerve dance competition last spring and has been working on making the program a reality ever since. 

“Everything that’s happening, I wrote it or made it or mixed it,” Johnson said, “by God’s grace. I feel like He gave me the vision for it … It’s been real smooth; I’ve gotten a lot of support, not just with students but with faculty and administration. It’s been an experience and it’s been fun.”

Johnson hopes that the program gives viewers a new perspective on Black history and a desire to learn more about it. “I just want people to understand that we’re all created in God’s image, and for us to live with one another and understand one another, love one another, we have to understand each other’s past, each other’s present, in order to make a better future. And so I want a lot of people to take away from the whole program, the whole month, that it’s okay to celebrate Black history. And I wanted to really focus on that it’s not just for Black people to celebrate, it’s for everybody to celebrate.”

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