Black History Month at Packer
First proposed by students at Kent State University back in 1970 Black History Month, or BHM for short, has fast become one of the most popular and polarizing national observances in the US and is now also celebrated in the United Kingdom, Canada, and the Netherlands. Taking place in February, BHM is intended to be a way of remembering important people and events in African history both inside and outside of the United States and to raise awareness for ongoing African American civil rights movements such a Black Lives Matter. As everyone knows, Packer is a school that makes a point to celebrate student diversity which begs the question; what did Packer do to celebrate Black History Month?
“From what I saw, administration did not do anything to celebrate Black History Month. But there were a number of things organized by students and teachers like Ms. Smith-Williams and Ms. Greene.” said Jevon Campbell (‘18). “There was a first Friday about black Greek life, Leila reading the anonymous letter during community meeting with all people of colour on the stage with her. I personally made an announcement acknowledging Black History Month and encouraged people to engage with it because I didn’t know if anyone would otherwise.”
In addition to this, there was also the Ms. Smith-Williams and PADC organized Black Panther movie viewing at Cobble Hill Cinema on the day it was released. It allowed any student who was interested to go see the film for a much reduced price of $5. Jevon and Ms. Smith-Williams also hung up a number of quotes from notable black figures from history around the school in order to remind students of the month’s importance to many in the community and to further encourage engagement with the event.
“I think that Packer is getting better at celebrating Black History Month but I worry that it’s just because me and other students pushed for things to happen.” said Jevon. “I don’t know if people are going to take the same initiative next year or if the school will revert back to ignoring it.”
Both PIA day as well as men’s and women’s forums fell during BHM this month but little was done to tie the events together. This is to take nothing away from PIA day and other events at Packer which can often be incredibly profound and important for many in the community, but too frequently does it leave many in people of colour in the community feeling alienated and underrepresented by the school.
“I believe Packer should take the time and effort to show all people of colour and specifically black students that they care.” said Jevon. “Whether that means an email, a chapel announcement, a community meeting anything to educate students on the importance of that month and why it matters to this country.”