The Office of Multicultural and Development and the Martha Gault Art Gallery teamed up to bring Professor Curlee R. Holton to Slippery Rock University on Feb. 2, where he spoke at the opening ceremony for the kick-off to Black History Month in the theater at the Robert M. Smith Student Center.
Director of the Office of Multicultural and Development, Corinne Gibson, began the opening ceremony by leading the audience in singing the Black National Anthem, ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing.’ Gibson went on to explain this year’s theme—“remember and reclaim.”
“We take this opportunity to remember all those that have worked for us to be here today,” Gibson said. “We take this opportunity to also thank all of our ancestors, both known and unknown who have paved the path we travel today to a world of more inclusiveness and equality. We acknowledge and realize their struggles are a part of our great history and we take time to appreciate all of their victories. Each hurdle, big or small, is important to remember, both the ones made famous through history and the ones more personal of our family members and friends. We take this time to remember and give thanks by saying Ashay.”
The ceremony continued on with an informative video reflecting on past African American historical events. It included the origins of Black History Month, or rather “Negro History Week,” which was created by Dr. Carter G. Woodson, who wanted to honor Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, due to their birthdays being in February.
“We also take this time to reclaim,” Gibson said. “We reclaim our place at society’s table, continuing to fight for social justice and equality throughout the world. We reclaim the significance of our history as we make new history every day. We reclaim our space and stand with those who believe that all people are created equal.”
Director of the Martha Gault Art Gallery, Theresa Antonellis introduced the guest speaker at the event, Professor Curlee R. Holton. Holton currently teaches at Lafayette College.
“I’ve always believed the best way to teach your students how to swim is to throw them in the pool, they’ll survive and then you can teach, because you have to make an assumption about the inherent quality and the worth of an individual,” Holton said. “We have taken African American art into those spaces, into those environments and what has been so wonderful about this is that it transcends those national languages and cultural practices, because they can see in the art the truth.”
President of Black Action Society (BAS), Yonshalae Powell, was one of many students who attended the event in support of Black History Month.
“The event was a really great experience,” Powell said. “The Office of Multicultural Development brought an insightful and inspiring man to this campus. He was a great keynote speaker to kick off Black History Month.”
Public Health major and BAS treasurer Odell Richardson also attended the ceremony.
“It was a good event from my perspective,” Richardson said. “We were able to start Black History Month off well with an amazing speaker who talked about African-American history.”
Freshman secondary education social studies major Sarah Kanar joined Black Action Society after learning about it from friends who were a part of the organization.
“Black Action Society has a very welcoming environment for people of all backgrounds,” Kanar said. “They hold a variety of events that reflect on current and past occurrences relating to African Americans in society. It’s definitely a fulfilling experience for anyone interested in joining BAS.”
Black Action Society will continue to hold events throughout the semester geared towards bringing together a community who want to show support for African Americans.
“As President of Black Action Society, my goal for this semester is to continue to educate and welcome,” Powell said. “There is a misconception about Black Action Society. I want to educate individuals that the organization is not just for black people. Anyone that is not black and attends is an ally because all students are welcomed. I want to help us move towards a more understanding, supportive and inclusive environment at all times.”
Holton’s artwork will be featured at the Martha Gault Art Gallery until Feb. 25, where students can view it and learn more about African-American culture in the form of art during Black History Month.
“So, I challenge you all today to take this time to remember and reclaim by paying homage to the past while reclaiming our future,” Gibson said.