Black History Month 2024 at New College
Film poster of The Black Power Mixtape (2011). Photo courtesy of Flickr.

Black History Month 2024 at New College

Annual celebrations of Black History Month (BHM) at New College bring a variety of events   as a way for students, staff and faculty to honor the heritage and ongoing influence of Black history and culture in the United States. This February the New College community has the opportunity to recognize and honor an integral part of American life through movie screenings, a poetry workshop, eating delicious food and more.

The first event this month was the Black Student Union’s (BSU) screening of The Black Power Mixtape on Feb. 3. A second film, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse will be shown on Feb. 17 at 6 p.m. in Hamilton Classroom 8 (HCL8).

Third-year and BSU Vice President Devyn Rolls spoke with a Catalyst reporter about planning the BHM events and the effort it took to do so. “I don’t think BHM celebrations should stop at film, but I think this was an easy way to teach Black history in a way that has been so incredibly surmised by a writer that is my predecessor. The Black Power Mixtape is essentially a full breakdown of the Black Panther Party’s era and when they had their day in the sun.

“Because our administrative Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) office was abolished, there has been an undue burden on students to do all of the BHM programming outside of an event from Student Activities and Community Engagement (SAUCE) or Amy Reid pitching in,” Rolls continued. “Most of the activities that are being done this semester have been either planned by another student, by me or by an overworked faculty member.”

With the loss of many faculty members in the past year, upperclassmen are likely to sense a shift in the kind of programming available during BHM in 2024. Previous years were chock full of workshops, professional talks, performances, social events and more. Despite myriad difficulties in preparing for a full month of activities, students, staff and faculty have still found ways to foster critical thought and celebrations on campus during February.

Approached by Rolls and BSU, Professor of French Language and Literature and Director of Gender Studies Amy Reid organized a Feminist Friday event on Feb. 9 in honor of Black women in literature. The New College community was invited to bring and read an excerpt of a Black author’s writing, or to simply listen to the readings and discussions that ensued.

“New College has always had sort of a DIY approach to just about everything,”  Reid told the Catalyst.  “So, in this moment when there are fewer of us around, I wanted to make sure that we had a chance to read together and hear these voices. In the past, the library had organized extensive read-ins for BHM. So it would go on for the good part of the day and people could come in and out when they had a chance. That wasn’t possible to arrange this year.”

In attendance were students, staff and faculty, many of whom  brought a piece they were prepared to read. Among the selections, some may recognize bell hooks, who taught at New College for a short but meaningful period of time. Others included an excerpt from Toni Morrison’s novel Sula read by Reid, Nikki Giovanni’s poem “Ego-tripping” and Lucille Clifton’s poem “Let there be flowering.”

“I have a lot of voices in my head that talk to me about what BHM and the purpose of Feminist Friday is,” Reid stated. “So that [reflects] the books that I brought here. Angela Davis, who is an amazing speaker. Toni Morrison, I’m going to read a short passage from her novel Sula today because I heard her read it in, I believe, in 1986. I can hear her reading that passage, I can hear her reading several others, and that’s almost 40 years ago… These are the voices that shape, not only who I am as a feminist or who I am as a teacher, but the type of community we can and should aspire to be here at New College.”

Array of books prepared by Prof. Amy Reid. Photo by Gaby Batista.

The New College community can anticipate another Feminist Friday, likely on Feb. 23, centered on having an open conversation about Florida’s Black history and the ways we engage with that history on campus. Reid hopes to tie the discussion to the unveiling of a memorial at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Sarasota on Feb. 24. The memorial will honor victims of lynching in Sarasota and Manatee Counties.

Reid also plans to host a poetry workshop in collaboration with BSU during the last week of BHM. While the event is still in the planning stages, Reid hopes to send out an official announcement to the New College community soon.

The last event to anticipate during BHM is SAUCE’s Crafty Cookout, planned and hosted by first-year and Catalyst staff writer Naomi Nerlien.

“The purpose of the Crafty Cookout is to provide an event for all students to observe and engage in American Black culture’s art and food,” Nerlien explained in an email interview. “What is a New College event without crafts? There will be multiple tables with crafts inspired by Black artists that students will get to recreate. A local Black-owned business will be catering and a special guest will be speaking on behalf of her organization. Not only will students learn about historical figures, but they will also get to meet someone creating Black history today.”

Nerlien stressed that these events are critical in showing appreciation for the Black Americans who have made or are continuing to make an impact, and who have historically lacked the recognition that comes with such significant contributions to art, food, literature, popular culture and more.

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