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University plans events to celebrate Black History Month

| Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Various groups on Notre Dame’s campus will come together during the month of February to celebrate Black History Month to continue the conversation regarding diversity and inclusion highlighted during Notre Dame’s Walk the Walk Week and Martin Luther King, Jr. (MLK) Day celebrations.

The month will kick off with a concert titled “Unsung: The Exploration of the Sounds of Black Folk” which will highlight underrepresented African American voices in jazz, classical and gospel music.

The concert will feature guest artists Callie Day, Isaac Cates, J.J. Wright, Alex Mansour and Emorja Roberson in the effort to unite different age levels, races and musical styles.

Claire Kopischke | The Observer

Roberson, a doctoral student in the doctor of musical arts program, will be hosting and performing in the concert on Feb. 8 at 7 p.m. in the Debartolo Performing Arts Center. Roberson said although the African American population at Notre Dame remains low at 3.5%, he hopes African American music will become a universal musical genre everyone can enjoy.

“This is the first time we have had this event on Notre Dame’s campus, and it would be beneficial for our campus to not just have an immediate appreciation for the music but also have a longstanding sense of gratification for it because it’s so memorable,” Roberson said.

In the effort to expose African American students to local hair stylists and barbers in the community, multiple student groups and departments will sponsor a Black Hair Expo on Feb. 10 at 1 p.m. in the Lafortune Ballroom. 

“The basis of this event is to educate some of our colleagues in regard to how to assist students of African American descent … and to highlight the importance of having information and resources available to the students,” director of Multicultural Student Programs and Services Iris Outlaw said. “Oftentimes students are hesitant to go to salons because they don’t know the work of the stylists or paying for the salons can become expensive, so some of the vendors [at the expo] are open to coming to campus or providing transportation.”

Outlaw, who is also the advisor for the Black Cultural Arts Council (BCAC), said the BCAC will host a cultural talent show on Feb. 15, where two first-year students will be awarded with the Thurgood Marshall Scholarship. The BCAC has given away over $27,000 since the creation of the scholarship.

Later in the month, Multicultural Student Programs and Services, Gender Relations Center, Campus Ministry, McDonald Center for Student Well-Being and Student Government will collaborate to host Tarana Burke, founder of the #MeToo movement, for a professional development workshop and a race lecture series on Feb 25.

According to a New York Times article, Tarana Burke coined the phrase “me too” in 2007 after creating a nonprofit organization that supports victims of sexual harassment and assault, Just Be Inc., but the phrase garnered national attention in October 2017 after it was promoted by actress Alyssa Milano in response to the slew of sexual assault and harassment allegations against Harvey Weinstein.

Outlaw said she looks to Burke’s lectures to spark a discussion regarding the intersectionality between gender and race and to give people a different perspective from which to approach issues surrounding both.

The Black Faculty and Staff Association will end the month by sponsoring an ecumenical prayer service and lunch on Feb. 27.

“For the events this month, I would like a continuation of the conversations after the MLK celebrations because I think a lot of times people look at those kinds of events as one touch point, but we need to have multiple touch points to continue conversations,” Outlaw said. “We need to look at the contributions underrepresented group bring to campus, but we also need to look at the issues impacting those groups.”

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About Serena Zacharias

Serena is a senior majoring in Neuroscience and Behavior and minoring in Journalism, Ethics and Democracy. She hails from the great cheese state of Wisconsin and currently serves as the ND News Editor for The Observer.

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