Event inspires hope, change: Student-created Black History Extravaganza

Who: UCLA Students/RA’s
Age: College
What: Created Black History Extravaganza at UCLA

Making a difference through education has been one theme at BIY. As the old saying goes, “Give a man a fish; you have fed him for today. Teach a man to fish; and you have fed him for a lifetime.” This Sunday’s story is about a group who created an event at UCLA to celebrate Black History Month and empower their peers to educate themselves. The story comes from The Daily Bruin.

Event inspires hope, change: Student-created Black History Extravaganza receives attention from many groups on campus
Rotem Ben-Shachar, Bruin reporter
Published: Friday, February 22, 2008

For D’Juan Farmer, the Black History Extravaganza on Thursday was all about empowerment.

The event, hosted by the Office of Residential Life, the African Student Union and Youth to College, focused on black history from the 16th century to the present.

Farmer, a second-year Afro-American studies student, said it was significant for him that people from all over campus were supporting Black History Month.

The event, the largest of its kind ever held on campus, featured music, poetry, dance and skits, along with stories about slavery and black voting rights, a poem discussing the meaning of the color black and the Billie Holiday song “Summertime.”

“Since blacks are such an extreme minority on campus, it’s amazing to have such a big event highlighting black culture,” Farmer said. “It makes me feel good to be a part of this campus.”

A celebratory spirit lasted throughout the event.

As performers spoke and sang, audience members frequently stood up and clapped, sang along to songs and offered encouragement to the performers.

“Having this event is a huge step forward for the black community on campus,” said Ella Franklin, a second-year sociology student. “Last year on my floor, no one even acknowledged Black History Month.”

Farmer, a resident assistant on the Hill, began planning the event with other RAs last December since there had been no such event on campus.

“We hope people got a better understanding of how black history has influenced America,” he said.

James Birks, a third-year psychology student and another RA who helped organize the event, said he believed the event succeeded in increasing black students’ visibility on campus.

“I think it’s important that we were able to show our faces on campus and explore issues that African Americans face,” he said.

Franklin said the event made her aware of how little people know about black history.

A member of the African Arts Ensemble, Franklin participated in a short play called “Tuskegee.”

Tuskegee, a city in Alabama, was the site of an experiment on the effects of syphilis conducted by the American Medical Association, Franklin said. When penicillin was found to cure syphilis, doctors denied the black community treatment to see how the disease spread.

“Tuskegee” focused on the effect the experiment had on females, as they and their children were infected.

For Franklin, the play hit close to home; her mother’s parents refused to let her mother visit the desegregated hospitals in Dallas because of the Tuskegee experiment.

“What’s amazing is no one knows that this happened,” Franklin said. “My little sister didn’t even know.”

Birks said he hopes that audience members realize that issues such as civil rights still affect people today.

“I hope people see that we are still struggling – that it is important to take action and make change,” he said.

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~ by PJ on February 24, 2008.

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