Black History Month events at Laurier honours culture and experiences

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Black History Month at Wilfrid Laurier University ended with a series of events from the Laurier Lettermen Club (LLC) on Feb. 27 and Laurier’s Association of Black Students (ABS) on Mar. 1, which took place at The Turret on Laurier’s Waterloo campus.

The events brought together students to honour the achievements and culture, as well as recognize the lived struggles, that People of Colour (PoC) have and continue to experience across the world.

The LLC organized a Black History Month speaker panel through the combined efforts of Cedaleia Graham and Osayi Iginuan, executive members for school-day games at LLC. 

“We had some speakers that came to speak, to make us aware of some of the struggles that they have gone through to get to the positions that they are in today,” Graham said.

“They’re all African-American. They came and spoke to our audience and were pretty much explaining the ways that they achieved what they did, in terms of some struggles that they went through; so, [for example,] not getting recognition for certain things that they should have as opposed to their white counterparts.”

The event had a good turnout, with audience members responding positively and showing a lot of appreciation for the speakers that came to share their stories. 

“I know a lot of people in the crowd were able to relate and share their own experiences, so I think that’s just really important and sends such a strong message to our students,” Graham said. 

The ABS held their annual culture show, which celebrated the various cultures of black students within the Laurier community. 

“We have performances: we have dancers, singers, spoken word [performances], fashion shows … It’s a fun night; usually, afterwards, we have an afterparty,” said Ashley Bello, president of ABS. 

Celebrating the culture and achievements of the black community is an important aspect of Black History Month, which Bello says is often left under-discussed.

“We’re really encouraging it through Lettermen — not just for Black History Month, but for all of our students to just be able to be appreciative for their culture, their race — and even in terms of some of the things that they celebrate and support that other students may not.”

“I feel like black people, in general, have had a lot of large contributions to the world today that we live in, as well as on this campus. I feel like it’s very necessary that we are able to celebrate those things,” Bello said. 

The ABS held a series of events throughout the month, including their “The Beating the Odds” on Feb. 8, which celebrated its thirteenth anniversary, as well as a screening of the film Moonlight on Feb. 27.

Other events included “Freedom is a Constant Struggle: A Talk with Angela Davis” on Feb. 26, a speaker event at the University of Guelph, through the collaborative efforts of Laurier’s Centre for Student Equity, Diversity and Inclusion and the University of Guelph’s Office of Intercultural Affairs, as well as the Laurier Student Opportunities for Unity and Leadership’s (SOUL) “Black History Month Gala” on Feb. 28.

Raising awareness for the month, especially given that both the Waterloo and Brantford campuses have such a diverse student population, means that events like these are significant for Graham.

“It is important for us to spread this awareness to all students, not just African American students. I feel like it’s important for everyone to be able to know and appreciate all the different cultures that do occur on our Laurier campus,” Graham said.

With the success of the events, both organizations are looking optimistically to the future, in the hope that they will be able to hold more outside of Black History Month.

“We’re really encouraging it through Lettermen — not just for Black History Month, but for all of our students to just be able to be appreciative for their culture, their race — and even in terms of some of the things that they celebrate and support that other students may not,” Graham said.

“I think It’s important for us to show that we’re in this for that.”

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