Westfield Newsroom

WSU, HCC plan Black History Month events for students, public

WESTFIELD-While Westfield State University will celebrate Black History Month with a variety of events targeted to students, there are also opportunities for area residents to participate during the virtual programming.

The university’s theme this month is “Honor the History. Embrace the Power. Shape the Future,” according to Troy Watkins, communications specialist, Westfield State University.

Westfield State University is hosting a variety of programs this month to celebrate Black History Month. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)

“Since 1974, Westfield State University has observed Black History Month by hosting events that inform the campus community and the public about the continuing importance of representation for African American history, culture, and traditions,” said Watkins.

The celebration begins Feb. 4 from 6-7 p.m. with a program titled “True Black History Month Museum.” The exhibit will provide a journey through the African American experience and features more than 1,000 authentic artifacts, with original documents from historic figures including Booker T. Washington, Mary McLeod Bethune, George Washington Carver, Rosa Parks, Frederick Douglass, Angela Davis, former President Barack Obama, and many other African Americans.

“Douglass Day” will be marked Feb. 12 from 12-2 p.m. with a program that celebrates the life of Frederick Douglass (1818-1895) and a transcribe-a-thon of the papers of Mary Church Terrell (1863-1954).

Panelists will be alumni who identify as Black and Brown and will discuss the challenges they have faced in their work environments during a program titled “Voices of Color: What it Means to be a Person of Color in the Workplace” on Feb. 24 at 4 p.m.

The events close out on Feb. 24 from 7-8:30 p.m. with a program titled “Meet the Greeks.” The event will discuss the nine historically Black Greek letter organizations (BGLOs) that are referred to as “The Divine Nine.” Each of the fraternities and sororities is rich in black history, according to Watkins in a press release.

“Each organization invited is a member of The Divine Nine and has Westfield State University listed in its charter,” notes Watkins.

For more information about or to access Westfield State’s events celebrating Black History Month, call the university’s Student Activities, Involvement, and Leadership Center (SAIL) at (413) 572-5619 or send an email to [email protected].

Details on all events can also be found at westfield.ma.edu/BHM.

On a related note, Holyoke Community College (HCC) will also celebrate Black History Month with a series of online events that includes conversations about the 400-year span of African-American history, voting rights, and health issues such as COVID-19 and their disproportionate impact on communities of color.

All events require advanced registration and can be made through the college’s Black History Month celebration webpage – hcc.edu/bhm.

Highlights of the month include a program on Feb. 10 at 11 a.m. titled “The Legacy of Poor Health: Communities of Color From 1619 to COVID.” HCC anthropology professor Vanessa Martinez, Ph.D., will share data on the legacy of American racism and how it amplifies the challenges of living during COVID-19, especially for communities of color. As part of the presentation, Martinez will offer some concrete ways to improve the lives of the most vulnerable communities.

HCC will host a watch party and discussion of the film “Fannie Lou Hamer: Voting Rights Activist” on Feb. 17 at 11 a.m. about the outspoken civil rights leader. Hamer was the granddaughter of a slave and the youngest of 20 children. In the documentary, Hamer’s struggles and triumphs are expressed through her own words as well as those of friends and colleagues. HCC history professor Maura Henry, Ph.D., will lead a discussion following the viewing.

Capping off the month on Feb. 23 at 1 p.m., HCC history professor Gaylord Saulsberry, Ed.D., will lead a discussion about One Person, No Vote: How Voter Suppression is Destroying Our Democracy, by Carol Anderson, the award-winning author of “White Rage.” In One Person, No Vote, Anderson explores the history of voting rights in the United States. The book is part of a HCC community read project. Copies are available for free as an e-book through the HCC Library.

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