The BBSO celebrates Black History Month at Brandeis

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March 2, 2018

As part of Black History Month, The Brandeis Black Student Organization (BBSO) hosted several events at Brandeis including a movie screening of the film “School Daze,” a teach-in, a black career panel and the cultural show, “Shades of Blackness.” The organization planned to host a Black-owned business day on Feb 12, but the event was cancelled due to insurance concerns.

The screening of the Spike Lee film, “School Daze,” was hosted at the Intercultural Center on Feb. 2. BBSO co-president Danielle Gaskin ’18 described the event as successful, saying the audience was very receptive to the film. After the screening, the BBSO hosted a discussion on the film with Prof. Faith Smith (AAAS).

The teach-in on Feb. 5 discussed the work of two Brandeis lecturers, postdoctoral fellows Dr. Wangui Muigai (AAAS) and Dr. Cory Hunter (HSSP). During the event, Muigai chronicled the life of Carter G. Woodson, known as the founder of Black History Month.

Muigai spoke about the intersection of race and health, citing the deaths of Eric Garner. Garner, who had asthma, was held in a chokehold by the NYPD until his death, sparking a national conversation on police brutality.

Hunter focused on the music of the civil rights movement, describing and analyzing the political and historical meaning of the lyrics in a variety of songs including “People Get Ready” by Curtis Mayfield and “Promised Land” by Chuck Berry.

Brittany Duncan ’18, co-president of the BBSO, was impressed by the teach-in. “The teachers were actually very … interesting and intriguing and it was interactive. It wasn’t a huge audience but the people who were there were participating and were engaged,” she said.

Duncan and Gaskin were concerned about lagging attendance and a lack of administrator support for the BBSO’s events.“The amount of administrator support and visibility was what I think we were most disappointed with,” Gaskin said, citing a specific lack of administrator attendance at the events and late check-ins with the BBSO.

Duncan agreed, but was hopeful for next year’s Black History Month, saying, “I really hope that now … they have it in their head that Black History Month is a thing at Brandeis. It’s not just a thing that just gets forgotten about.”

The black career panel was held in the Intercultural Center, where panelists shared their experiences in the workforce. The panel discussed diversity hiring and underrepresented minorities, and took place Friday, Feb. 9.

“Shades of Blackness,” featured a variety of both Brandeis affiliated and off-campus performance groups in Levin Ballroom on Saturday, Feb. 10. The performers celebrated black history through poetry, acapella and dance.

The show featured the Platinum Step Team. Step is a rhythmic and percussive dance form that utilizes the whole body to create sound. The team combined footwork with hand claps and spoken word. One statement Platinum Step incorporated into their dance echoed the theme of the night: “We come in all shades of blackness. Messages of empowerment and “black girl magic” were also woven into the performance.

The Women of Color Alliance put on a fashion show to showcase the styles of notable present day and historical figures of color. Models dressed in the styles of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. and also paid tribute to black athletes such as Gabby Douglas and Serena Williams. Erykah Badu, Nina Simone and Alicia Keys were among the many women artists represented in the fashion show.

The night of entertainment also featured the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Afro Diamonds, a team of young dancers led by UMass Dartmouth student Bridget Kamanzi, a dance coach and African Cultural Services mentor.

Duncan and Gaskin commented on “Shades of Blackness.” They both described the show as the BBSO’s most successful event. “This was the first true BBSO show …This is the first time that BBSO has collectively planned a show similar to other culture clubs,” Gaskin said.

The BBSO meets Mondays at 7 p.m. in the Intercultural Center.

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