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‘African Royalty’ ball on Feb. 28 Helps Celebrate Black History Month

Stetson Black Student Association member pose in a group photo
Members of Stetson’s Black Student Association dressed up in 1970s-style clothing to honor the students who founded the organization in that era. Pictured are, front row from left: Melissa Ndiaye, director of Programming & Events; Bryan Jordan, director of Marketing (seated); and Irene Laws, president. Second row from left: Markala Roland, director of Finance; Kayla Murray, former Director of Community Engagement; Kala Diltz, senior advisor; and Aja Williams, secretary. Back: Grant Hodges, vice president. Photo provided by BSA

A Black Student Association Ball themed “Celebrating African Royalty,” a dance class and even an active barbershop and nail salon set up in Lee’s Garage at the CUB will be part of Black History Month events at Stetson.

Black History Month events will continue through the month and conclude with the BSA Ball at 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 28, in the Stetson Room at the CUB.

All events are free and open to the public. However, some events require an RSVP through the online site Engage. Patrons who are not members of the Stetson community can RSVP by emailing the BSA at bsa@stetson.edu. Event details are listed below.

“Black history is American history, but a lot of the time, whether in academia or just in life, it’s just forgotten about,” said Irene Laws, BSA president and a senior Social Science major. “It’s important for us, the black and brown people of African descent, because historically we have not been treated respectfully, and have not had our own voices heard a lot of the time. Our histories have been changed. They have been forgotten and left out.

“This month is here for us to use it as a reference – a reference to remember where we came from, to remember the people and the giants that we stand on, the foundations that they built for us.”

Black History Month also is an opportunity “for the community to now celebrate us, too – for allies and people not of color to learn something and also to share in that appreciation,” Laws said.

Johnathan Harris

Black history took the spotlight at Stetson even before Black History Month when the Office of Diversity and Inclusion hosted the 1st Annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Life and Legacy Celebration on Jan. 15 – King’s birthday — in the Stetson Room. The theme was “The Power of Now.”

Johnathan Harris, founder and headmaster of Lynnhaven Academy in Richmond, Va., was the keynote speaker.

“Is it necessary for chaos to transpire in order to fight anti-Semitism, capitalism, imperialism, racism, sexism?” Harris asked attendees. “The issues that plagued America during the time of Dr. King continue today. Where do we go from here? How do we leave our imprint? We all possess the power to fight for social justice now.”

Wendy B. Libby

Stetson President Wendy B. Libby, PhD, was presented the Pioneer for Multicultural Advocacy Award at the event. Patrick Coggins, PhD, JD, professor of Education, was given the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Legacy Award, which will be an annual honor.

Patrick Coggins

Here’s a list of upcoming Black History Month events:

* Umoja Dance Class, 5 p.m. Feb. 12 in Lee’s Garage at the CUB. The class will be led by Joe Mounts and is limited to 30 participants. RSVP is required and participation will be filled on a first come, first serve basis. Umoja is the Swahili word for “unity.”

* Trap Karaoke: Rep Your City, 7 p.m. Feb. 15, Lee’s Garage at the CUB. “This event was very popular last year,” Laws said, noting that trap is a genre of hip-hop. “It’s just a giant, grand karaoke event. Trap is music that makes you hyped, makes you excited and is the kind of music that you can dance to. So people don’t just watch you singing – they’re going to be there dancing with you. This year we are doing ‘Rep Your City’ to honor all of the different influences that music has had. So we’re going to be celebrating the West Coast, the East Coast, the Midwest and the Dirty South.”

* Bus trip to the African American Museum of the Arts in DeLand. Departs at 9 a.m. Feb. 21 from the Cross Cultural Center, 611 Bert Fish Drive, and returns at noon. Museum admission is free but donations are accepted. Space is limited and RSVP is required.

* Watchin’ “Barbershop” at the Barbershop, 5 p.m. Feb. 25, Lee’s Garage at the CUB. Laws said the BSA “reached out to DeLand barbers, nail salons, hairstylists and women who braid hair and invited them to come to campus and offer their services to students. They will be offering student discounts but none of the money will be going to the BSA. It’s simply a chance for them to create those connections because a lot of students come from out-of-town or out-of-state, and they want to know where they can get their hair done. They want to be able to trust that they can find somebody who knows how to do their hair.”

Portrait holding a sign
Chy Douglas-Rivera is the Black Student Association’s Director of Community Engagement.

While those businesses are offering their services, the 2002 film “Barbershop” will be screened. The comedy stars Ice Cube, Cedric the Entertainer and Anthony Anderson and revolves around the social life in a barbershop on the South Side of Chicago. Refreshments will be served. RSVP is requested but walk-ins will be welcome.

* BSA Ball: Celebrating African Royalty, 7 p.m. Feb. 28, Stetson Room in the CUB. Cultural credit available.

“This year with the theme I really wanted to hit home on cultural heritage and going back to our roots,” Laws said. “Going back to our roots might be celebrating our African culture as we are all of African descent. I had the intention that everybody dress up just however they feel as kings and queens. So, if you want to dress in a very nice suit and tie, please do that. If the ladies want to wear a beautiful gown, please do that. For those who are African, I know some people in our club and outside of our club are planning to wear their own traditional clothing.”

As part of the cultural credit, the ball will include a display of famous kings and queens from Africa, a display of “many, many” kente cloths and their meanings and patterns, educational place-card holders featuring folklore such as Anansi the Spider, and a video segment including one on African civilizations.

Student speakers will include Abby Mutiganzi, a senior from Tanzania; Makeba Dorival, a senior from the U.S. Virgin Islands; and Henry Semaganda, a sophomore from Uganda.

— Rick de Yampert