Black History Month kicks off with a night of statues, song

Graham Shapley

Communication studies sophomore Michaelah Coleman performs “Be Free” by J. Cole at the Black History Month Kick-Off Friday, Feb. 1. (AJ Frankson | Collegian)

Black History Month is a time of remembrance and recognition for the Black individuals who have shaped not just the United States’ culture and history, but the world’s. This year, the Colorado State University’s for Black History Month is “reclamation.”

“(Reclamation) is the process of reclaiming something back, or of reasserting a right,” said Ally Johnson, a senior studying psychology with a clinical counseling concentration, in her introduction to the event.  “This theme was chosen this year by Black Definition, the council of Black student organization presidents here at CSU, to honor the struggle that many of us face as African-Americans today in reclaiming our time, our spaces, our narratives, our bodies, our voices, and our work and contributions throughout history and pre-slavery.”

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The Black and African American Cultural Center kicked off Black History Month with a performance and demonstration celebrating the beginning of Black History Month in the Lory Student Center Theatre Feb. 1. The kickoff featured music, choreography, spoken-word poetry and rap. Food, drinks and cake were served to accompany the performances.

The theme of the event came through every performer and speaker, demonstrating the struggle to reclaim a Black identity in a society that punishes those identities and tries to hide the historical oppression it has enforced. 

“(Black History Month) gives me a space to be myself in a world where I’m not allowed to be myself,” said Michaelah Coleman, a sophomore communication studies major. Coleman provided the opening performance of the event, singing J. Cole’s “Be Free.”

“We really need to understand that all cultures and all people who are Black need to be respected and acknowledged for their contributions to society.”– Brittany Solomon, senior International Studies major at Colorado State University

At the same time, the event recognized the ways Black people changed the world outside of an American point of view.

Communication sophomore Ellison Hubbard writes ‘my mind’ on the ‘What are you reclaiming?’ whiteboard at the Black History Month Kick-Off Friday, Feb. 1. “I feel like I kind of lost my mind,” Hubbard said. “I was focused on things that weren’t helping me; I want to refocus on important things.” (AJ Frankson | Collegian)

“(Black History Month) is a celebration of Black people all around the world,” said Brittany Soloman, a graduating senior studying International Studies with a concentration in European Studies, who also sang at the event. “We really need to understand that all cultures and all people who are Black need to be respected and acknowledged for their contributions to society.”

The event also highlighted “living statues,” in which students dressed up as influential Black individuals throughout history. Each gave a short speech about their own history, which provided an educational component to the night. Investigative journalist and teacher Ida B. Wells, popular musician Alicia Keys and environmentalist Majora Carter were just a few of the Black individuals celebrated. 

The performers felt that it was important that their skills be displayed at the event.

“It’s the first day of Black History Month,” Coleman said. “It’s important for people to come together, to see everybody’s talents. That’s what pushed me to perform.”

Other performers had a similar motivation to come together and express themselves.

“I don’t think I express my Blackness enough at CSU,” Soloman said. “I felt like it would be really helpful for me to be a part of this.”

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Johnson said the significance of Black History Month lies in more than bringing attention to marginalization. 

“Like our ancestors and the indigenous peoples on this land before them, we are more than a single story,” said Johnson. “We are more than what’s been taken from us.”

The full schedule of events for Black History Month is available on the BAACC website.

Graham Shapley can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com and on Twitter @shapleygraham.