For President of Allied Blacks for Liberty and Equality (ABLE) My!a Boyd, sophomore, Black History Month is a time to be unapologetically black.
“When I really think about Black History Month, it gives me space and opportunity to be myself Ñ super authentically with no boundaries, no restrictions. It’s probably the only time of the year I feel truly 100% unapologetic, and because I feel that way, being the President of ABLE, I want everyone who identifies as black on this campus to also feel that way and feel that they have the space to do that,” Boyd said.
February is Black History Month, and ABLE wanted to make sure it was jam-packed with events tackling important topics that focus mainly on what it means to be black. Boyd, as president, took examples from years past in regards to events for the month but escalated it to new heights with nearly three events every single week in February.
“I wanted somebody to feel represented every week. I wanted (different factors of black identity) to be celebrated in some way shape or form and by doing that each week, I can reach different people on campus, people who may not necessarily come to ABLE or I may not necessarily know personally,” Boyd said.
The club members had discussions of what topics they felt were most important to cover during the month. Their decision came down to four topics: hair, black love, LGBTQ+ and dance. Each topic has an entire week dedicated to it, consisting of at one event, a general meeting to talk about what was brought up at the event and a movie night each Friday.
“What I wanted to do was every Tuesday we have something going on, every Thursday we have something going on, every Friday, so it’s like uniformity,” Boyd said.
Looking over the entire month, Boyd feels that this is a time for white people to ask the tough questions regarding race. With each event planned by ABLE, Boyd hopes that privileged people meet people of color halfway in their pain.
“The fact that black people are always so vulnerable and willing to give pain and hurt and tell you everything we’ve been through, just meet us halfway at some point,” Boyd said. “I try to just say that, because I know how emotionally draining and how emotionally exhausting it is, and I think that if more people knew how much we’re giving, how much time and effort and energy, how late we are staying up thinking about all these things and spend all day on, maybe they should just give a fraction of that.”
This week was all about hair. It began with a dialogue that focused on texture discrimination. Later in the week, ABLE hosted a Hair Demonstration workshop that allowed students to teach others different ways they style their hair. At the end of the demonstrations, ABLE surprised the attendees with hair products.
“People came to the house and we had hair models and demonstrators. Whatever people were good at, they would show us how to do it,” Boyd said. “It’s really community-based. I’m teaching you how to cornrow, that’s something that I think will bind people together and create stronger bonds.”
Next, ABLE shifted their focus to Black Love. The idea around this topic was to showcase what it means to love black bodies. It began with a sponsored event by the Hope Center presenting a traditional step dance group: Step Afrika. In their performance, they went through the history of stepping and how it has evolved over the years.
They continued this topic with a panel hosted by Assistant Professor of Educational Studies, Nathaniel Williams, and his wife and Knox counselor, Crystal Williams. During their panel, they discussed what love means to them as a married couple. At the club’s general meeting, they continued the conversation that began during the panel by discussing sex and consent within the black community.
Next, the topic changed to the LGBTQ+ community within blackness. The club began this week with a Black LGBTQ+ panel in Ferris Lounge representing several different communities within Queer Culture. The hope was to have students come to ask difficult questions about being black and queer. They continued their week with a general meeting discussing the panel and a movie showing on Friday.
“Going into like my presidency I was like, ‘Damn, there’s no representation for queer people and black queer people.’ I know that people that feel marginalized at ABLE (who) don’t feel black enough because of their queerness, so I thought that it was super important to have that week,” Boyd said.
To end the month, week four’s topic will be highlighting dance within the black community. Their event will begin with a dance workshop co-hosted with Harambe Club on Tuesday, Feb. 25 from 4:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. in Wilson House. The workshop will be focused on traditional African dances. This will be followed again by a general meeting at ABLE House on Thursday, Feb. 27 from 6:00pm to 7:00pm, and a movie night at ABLE House. To close off the month, they felt it was important to have a topic that let the members relax and celebrate their accomplishments. Boyd shared that they intend to host a “twerk-off” at their general meeting.
“I wanted it to be, “Okay, we are going to have these conversations where you can go home and think and reflect,’ but also, ‘We are going to have a freaking twerk out or something where you can just let loose and realize that while we don’t share the same race, or we don’t share the same beliefs and identities, we can still have a good time together, we can still learn from each other,’” Boyd said.