Black Legacy Month kicks off

by Arielle Beak | 2/5/19 3:00am

Black Legacy Month celebrations kicked off on Saturday evening at Collis Common Ground with food, prizes and performances from student groups on campus. February marks Black Legacy Month at the College, and Dartmouth will be hosting celebrations and events throughout the month to honor black history and celebrate the continuation of its legacy. 

At the kickoff event, students lined up for food, free T-shirts, buttons, African flags and raffle tickets. The prizes included a copy of “Becoming” by Michelle Obama, bus tickets to Boston and Fenty Beauty cosmetic products. After opening remarks by Dia Draper, interim Office of Pluralism and Leadership director and director of strategic initiatives at the Tuck School of Business, hosts Olivia Marquis ’22 and Isaiah Briggs ’19 kicked off a schedule of high-energy festivities that included a Beyonce tribute, performances by student dance groups Soyeya and Ujima and spoken word poetry.

In her opening remarks, Draper expressed her pride in the black legacy that continues to grow at Dartmouth. 

“Black legacy doesn’t just survive, it thrives,” she said. “It refuses to be less than excellent. Black legacy doesn’t hear the words ‘no,’ ‘you can’t,’ or ‘you aren’t.’”

Torrance Johnson ’19, the co-student coordinator for the opening ceremony and a performer in the Beyonce tribute, is also a member of the Black Legacy Month planning committee. Johnson emphasized the importance of celebrating all ethnicities and backgrounds of every nature during Black Legacy Month.

“I just want to make sure that it’s clear that [while] this does focus on black history, black culture, black excellence and the celebration of black people, everyone’s invited to be a part of it,” Johnson said.

Other events taking place this month include an Afro-Diasporic Food Festival and Cookoff on Feb. 19 at Collis Common Ground from 6-8 p.m. The food will be from “Only One,” a catering company from Boston that also catered the same event last year. The spread is expected to feature Caribbean and Southern food, including food ranging from oxtail, curry chicken and plantains to fried chicken, mac and cheese, and collard greens.

Nai-Lah Dixon ’21, the primary student coordinator for this year’s Black Legacy Month celebrations, saw last year’s food festival as one of the month’s most successful events in terms of turnout.

“It was really nice to see everyone commune and come together,” she said. “We had it near midterms week so it was a nice way for people to decompress, eat great food and learn about everyone and different cultures.”

On Feb. 11, activist Ron Davis, who participated in a lecture last year in an event called “His Music Was Not a Weapon: Black Noise, Breakable Skin, and the Plundered Voice of Jordan Russell Davis,” will be coming to the College again as a keynote speaker. Davis is the father of Jordan Davis, a 17-year-old high school student who was shot in Jacksonville, Florida for playing his music too loudly at a gas station.

Other events taking place throughout the month include a “Self Love Day & Wellness Workshop,” black hair care barbering services and a film screening of “For Colored Girls.” In addition, all throughout the month, students on campus will be able to use the Black Legacy Month 2019 filter on Snapchat to spread the word and showcase their pride.

For Jaden Oliveras ’21, the Black Legacy Month sentiments should continue beyond February.

“There’s amazing black people that we never talked about or got to hear about when we were kids,” Oliveras said. “Coming here and realizing all the black people that I’m surrounded by is this greatness that I love so that’s exactly why Black Legacy Month should be bigger and continue every year.”

The campus-wide celebration and acknowledgment of Black Legacy Month is a relatively new occurrence — until February 2015, “V-February,” the campus’s yearly campaign to “end gender-based violence and promote gender equity,” was the sole focus of the month. In response, Dartmouth students Thery Badin ’18, Marcus Gresham ’18 and Marley Peters ’18 applied for funding from the Afro-American Society to host the College’s first Black Legacy Month event.

While the event in 2015 was only planned on a $400 budget, the present festivities include funding from the Special Programs and Events Committee and have greatly increased in programming.

Many students echoed the sentiment that the College’s acknowledgment and celebration of Black Legacy month creates a positive space for the black community on campus to come together.

“It brings together all the black people on campus that may not really be aware of other people, or go to all of the events, so it’s a month of events that allows everyone to come together and express blackness and what it means,” said Caleb Jackson ’21.

For Nate Giffard ’21, the festivities are a way to share “everyone’s culture and experience in one place.”

“For me personally, I’m Latino, but I think it’s definitely a good thing to continue celebrating diversity at our school,” Giffard said.

The festivities will come to an end during closing ceremonies on Feb. 28, with a speech from keynote speaker and trustee Laurel Richie ’81. 

While this month is a time to reflect on the past and celebrate unity, Draper said it is also a time to be mindful of the future.

“Take this black legacy month, and think of the life and legacy that you want to create, and what kind of person do you want to be,” she added. “What side of history will you stand on?”