From performances by Chicago-based dance groups to volunteering in Galesburg, Allied Blacks for Liberty and Equality has used Black History Month as an opportunity to build awareness of black history and culture both on campus and in the community.
“Black History Month is the one month out of the year that we take to celebrate the black culture,” ABLE president junior Devin Compton said. “Basically, we as ABLE … wanted to take the month and make it something where we’re doing something … almost every day of the week if we can.”
In the past, last-minute planning has derailed many of ABLE’s efforts to hold Black History Month events, Compton said. This year, ABLE has averaged three events a week this month; five events are being held during the week of Feb. 17 alone. In addition to ABLE, Lo Nuestro and Women of Influence have also held Black History Month events.
One prominent series of events has been the “fireside chats,” modeled after those held via radio by Franklin Delano Roosevelt during his presidency. Each Sunday in February, students have gathered at the ABLE house to meet with campus figures ranging from professors in the Department of Black Studies to President Teresa Amott.
“Here at Knox, we have that relationship with our professors where you can just walk by and say hey and have a quick little conversation. But not everyone knows how to have that conversation,” Compton said. “So we thought, how about we just put us all in a room and talk.”
The fireside chats play into one of Compton’s primary goals with Black History Month: to inform more students of the resources on campus, especially at ABLE itself.
By holding a plethora of events at the house, ranging from the fireside chats to meetings with the local NAACP chapter to game and movie nights, Compton hopes more students will become aware of the resources ABLE offers, including study spaces, a kitchen and a library on black culture and history.
“A lot of people think that ABLE is the black house on campus … but it’s not only the black house on campus because it’s open to everybody, but not enough non-African-American students actually take hold of the resources at the house,” Compton said.
Sophomore Nicolette Bridgeforth, who is directing ABLE’s student showcase, was surprised by the number of students who have shown interest in performing.
“They’re mostly white,” Bridgeforth said, referring to the students participating in the showcase. “I was kind of surprised by that, but I’m happy too because it’s more diversity.”
The student showcase, which Bridgeforth described as an “expression of creativity,” will feature spoken word and dance performances in addition to an art show outside of Kresge Recital Hall.
“It’s a combination of closing off Black History Month and displaying what we have to offer and the side of us that people don’t really know,” Bridgeforth said. “It’s just supposed to be an enjoyable experience.”
While the majority of Black History Month events are geared towards the campus community, junior Melvin Taylor also wanted to spread awareness in Galesburg. Reigniting a program that began two years ago during Black History Month, Taylor is spearheading an initiative with the Boys & Girls Club to work with fourth graders on projects about African American leaders.
Rather than focusing on popular figures like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X, Taylor and other ABLE members are helping children research civil rights leaders and cultural figures who are less well-known but can still serve as role models.
“I don’t have anything against Lil Wayne, but I don’t see Lil Wayne as a huge role model,” Taylor said. “So just being able to say … even though these are people you see on TV every day, there are still a bunch of people behind the scenes who you don’t know about who are 10 times better role models.”
The next Black History Month event is the student showcase on Friday, Feb. 22 at 7 p.m. in Kresge.
Note: Melvin Taylor is Senior Sports Writer for The Knox Student.