Awareness month recognizes diverse contributions

Black History Month is dedicated to celebrate African-Americans’ achievements and their role in U.S. history. The recognition of Black History Month began in 1915 after slavery was abolished in the United States. Prior to recognizing the month, achievements of African-Americans were recognized for one week, but with the growing awareness of black identity, it was extended to a month.

Political director of Sonoma State University’s Black Scholars United organization, Shaitra Ken, believes Black History Month serves as a celebration and acknowledgment for what African-Americans contribute to society across the world. She discussed the many events the organization is holding this month as recognition of black history.

Black Scholars United has held various events as part of the Black Lives Matter movement, including “Facing Our Truth,” a series of 10-minute plays discussing race and privilege.

Ken said the plays will deal with tradition such as the steps show, which was a way of communicating in Africa as well as within the U.S. with slavery, and part of the Underground Movement.

“It’s interesting that it was part of a lot of African-American based sororities and fraternities and so that was the traditional part of it, it’s been continuous throughout time so we wanted to recognize and celebrate that,” said Ken.

Black Scholars United has also taken on the responsibility to share awareness to the Sonoma State campus.

Black Scholars United is an organization on campus that is multicultural, not just subject to students of only African-American descent.

The organization is meant to bring people of color together and give students a safe haven to participate in events, according to Christen Bearden, event coordinator and graphic designer of Black Scholars United.

“We come together and talk about common achievements, setbacks and pretty much raise awareness to the multicultural kids in the organization, and also give students praise,” said Bearden. “[The organization serves as] a real positive and educated group.”

Some events have already occurred in honor of Black History Month including a Black Lives Matter rally on Feb. 2, SPOKE!, a slam poetry event discussing microaggressions on Feb. 10 in The HUB of the Student Center and a fundraiser at Mountain Mike’s Pizza on Feb. 12 to help raise money for Black Scholars United. 

The Black History Month events coming up are the Step Show on Friday from 7-9 p.m. in the Person Theatre, and the Rep Yo Team dance on Feb. 27 from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. in the Student Center Ballroom.

Kamryn Rayson, marketing director of Black Scholars United, views Black History Month as something that should inspire society to take steps to change the world of today. She cites Martin Luther King Jr. as an inspiration to bring change.

“When I think of Black History as a whole, not just 28 days out of 365, I think of this idea that there is more that [people] can do to change [things around us],” said Rayson. “Martin Luther King Jr. wanted to change something, and he did because he wanted to, so that is my idea of black history. There is hope, there is a way to change that, you just have to be [a] proactive middle person for a change.”

On Feb. 24, former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown will be speaking at Sonoma State as part of the Africana Lecture Series, which will continue throughout the semester.