By: Madeline Marriott ’24

Beginning Feb. 1, Lafayette College and the Office of Intercultural Development (OID) will celebrate Black Heritage Month. The month, which celebrates the achievements and contributions of African Americans across United States history, finds its roots in the creation of the organization known today as the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH), originally conceived by historian Carter G. Woodson and minister Jesse E. Moorland in 1915. The organization later sponsored a national Negro History Week in 1926.

By the late 1960s, this week had evolved into a monthlong celebration on many college campuses with February being chosen to encompass the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. Gerald R. Ford began the presidential tradition of recognizing the month as a national celebration in 1976. 

The theme for the 2023 month is Black Resistance, which seeks to honor the many ways in which African Americans have fought back against historical and contemporary forms of oppression.

“Black Heritage/History Month is important because it provides context for how Black people/Americans got to where we are today, the obstacles and triumphs, and a deeper understanding of the issues we still face in this country,” Robert Young ’14, director of intercultural development, says.  

Throughout the month of February, OID will be co-hosting the Black History Month Film Festival, a series of six movies highlighting the Black experience. The festival will feature Get Out (Feb. 2), The Darker Side of Black (Feb. 7), Unmarked (Feb. 9), I Am Not Your Negro (Feb. 15), Is That Black Enough For You?!? (Feb. 20), and BlacKkKlansman (Feb. 28). Each of the showings will take place at 4:15 p.m. in Hugel 103. In addition to OID, the series is co-sponsored by Lafayette College Libraries, film and media studies, Africana studies, and the Association of Black Collegians (ABC) . 

Berrisford Boothe ’83 on a promotional Poster for 'On... Black Art, Black Identity, Black Expression'Additionally, OID will host Berrisford Boothe ’83, an artist, curator, and professor of fine arts at Lehigh University, as a keynote speaker for a discussion titled “On… Black Art, Black Identity, Black Expression.” The event will take place Feb. 23 at 6:30 p.m. in Oechsle Hall 224. 

According to Young, it is important for students of all backgrounds and identities to participate in these events. “Individuals outside of the Black diaspora/community need to develop cultural awareness and empathy for the experiences of the Black community,” he says. “Leverage cultural months like Black Heritage to elevate your awareness of another community/culture. However, the acknowledgment, achievements, and spotlights of people within the community should be celebrated throughout the year and not for just 28 days!”

Ariana Welch ’26, event coordinator for ABC, echoed Young’s sentiment. “ABC hopes all students will join us as we not only recognize a very real history of struggle and perseverance, but also celebrate the countless contributions the Black community has made in our society,” she says.

Want to learn more about Black history? Young recommends these resources:

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Portlock Black Cultural Center

Founded in 1970 by former academic dean David A. Portlock, the Portlock Black Cultural Center (PBCC) supports the educational and social experiences of students from historically marginalized backgrounds. Ongoing activities in the PBCC include student organization meetings, art exhibits, workshops, dinners for campus guests, alumni events, guest speakers and lectures, receptions, film showings, student social activities, and other community-sponsored events.

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