Programs will focus on addressing a wide range of topics related to black history and contemporary race relations.
TU’s Association of Black Collegians has planned a month of programming for Black History Month.
Junior Jenna Lazenby, president of ABC, explained that the programming is intended to address a variety of topics within the black community.
“These events range from fun to serious, like the Black Lives Matter panel and then the ‘Black Panther’ movie,” Lazenby said.
“Raising awareness for health within the black community is what we want to do with the fitness class. Which we kind of sink into the ground with the Soul Food Soiree, but that’s not the point. Everybody deserves comfort food every now and again,” she joked.
Other events, like the Black Lives Matter panel, are intended to be informative and educational. Panel participants will talk “about what Black Lives Matter actually means, what the movement is trying to accomplish and kind of denouncing the criticisms and the fallacies that surround it,” Lazenby explained. “It’s more educating and not just saying, ‘You should support this because we tell you to. We want to have a broader spectrum of what it means to everybody.”
The Expressions Talent Showcase will exhibit a broad spectrum of experiences across black culture, from Afro-Caribbean dance to African-American poetry and music. The accompanying Kwanzaa dinner also has an educational component.
“Most people think it’s an African holiday, but it’s not. It’s an African-American holiday,” Lazenby said.
The Soul Food Soiree is the month’s food-based event.
“It’s usually like southern comfort food, but things that are more specific to black culture,” Lazenby said. “So we usually have catfish, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, they have an assortment of greens, fried chicken … always the sweetest of sweet cornbreads. I don’t know how to explain how good the cornbread was last year. It was like somebody stuck a whole stick of butter in one little corner of it.”
Lazenby explained that the Black History Month programming has other purposes as well.
“We want to have a stronger foothold or a stronger presence on campus, but we also want to show that our campus is inclusive and that there are safe spaces on this campus for African-American students and other minority students,” she said. “You don’t have to be black or African-American or African to be in ABC. We’re open to everyone.”
ABC’s goals are “to raise awareness on campus, to be open and inclusive, to show a side of black culture that’s not always portrayed in the media,” according to Lazenby.
“Black Panther,” for example, is the first Marvel superhero movie to feature a predominantly black cast, so it was important to Lazenby and ABC that the movie and the topic of media representation be featured within the programming.
“All of our events are to showcase the diversity within the community and to showcase what black culture is outside of rap music or negative portrayals on the news or social media sites,” she said.
Lazenby also pointed out that the programming is intended to provide a sense of belonging for black students on a campus that is predominantly white.
“I know for myself personally, I don’t always feel super included in everything. And that’s not even because people aren’t welcoming on this campus … it’s just real easy to lose yourself when you don’t see yourself in campus that often,” she explained.
Outside of its February programming, ABC sponsors programming throughout the year and participates in many on-campus events. According to Lazenby, the organization holds Sunday Brunches, where members meet on Sundays right after church to go over their agenda, goals and discuss a “deep dive” hot topic.
“We also have what we call ‘Woke Wednesdays,’ which are a time for us to get together and discuss important social things on campus or in the world,” Lazenby said.
ABC also sends members to conferences, organizes annual participation in the MLK Day parade and hosted last year’s “Sippin’ Lemonade at the Table” event, which featured a talk on social themes in the music of Beyoncé and Solange Knowles. Lazenby says that the group hopes to sponsor a similar event featuring a different musician this year. The group usually also contributes a street painting with a social or political theme to the annual homecoming competition.
Lazenby is enthused about the upcoming events, adding, “Black History Month as a concept needs to not be February. It needs to be every single month of the year, because black history is history.”
Black History Month Events
Feb 1 – 10: Black history door decoration challenge
Residents of residential halls are encouraged to decorate their doors with black figures, quotes or art. There will be a prize for the best door.
Feb 9: Fitness class
Either a Zumba class or a fitness class to be taught by Dana Thomas.
Feb 15: “Black Panther” movie premiere at Cinemark
A showing of the movie exclusive for TU students. Co-sponsored by ABC, SA and DiversiTU.
Feb 16 – 17: The Vagina Monologues
Not technically a part of ABC’s Black History Month programming, but an ABC member is involved in the production, so the organization is endorsing it.
Feb 21: Black Lives Matter panel with TU Young Democrats
The two organizations are partnering to host a panel in Meinig Hall (Lorton Performance Center) featuring student representatives and members of the Tulsa community. The panel is intended to be an informative look at the goals and history of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Feb 24: Soul Food Soiree
This event will be held at the Pat Case Dining Center, and students can use a meal swipe to enter.
Feb 28: Expressions Talent Showcase
A showcase open to participants from the TU community and Tulsa and a whole. This event will feature art, music, dance, poetry and similar performances celebrating a wide range of black culture, from Afro-Hispanic to African-American. The showcase will be combined with a Kwanzaa dinner.