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Students reflect on issues of race during Black History Month

Books about black history line a wall of the Francis A. Drexel Library (Photo by Luke Malanga ’20).
Molly Grab
Written by Molly Grab

St. Joe’s hosts more events following postponed Read-In


This February at Saint Joseph’s University, students and faculty are celebrating Black History Month with movie screenings, speakers, historical discussions, and other educational events.

The most recent of these celebrations, the National African American Read-In, was snowed out on Feb. 9. The event, part of a countrywide effort for equality, is modeled after the historic sit ins of the civil rights movement and encourages students to collectively read passages written by African American authors. The Read-In will be rescheduled for later this month, when the rest of the Black History Month programming will also take place.

“Black history is American history, and unfortunately it’s not always taught in that way,” said Monica Nixon, Ed.D., assistant provost for Inclusion and Diversity. “Awareness months provide an opportunity for focused attention on groups whose histories have been minimized or even erased, but it’s critical to examine the experiences of all people whenever we’re studying history.”

Students recognize the importance of such awareness, as well. The Black Student Union (BSU) is sponsoring Black History Month events such as movie screenings, spades and basketball tournaments, a career planning Q&A session, and its annual Talent Show.

“Black History is a very important month for the Black Student Union,” said Imani Briscoe, ’17, member of the BSU. “Not only because of what the month represents for us, but especially because it means a lot to represent our group on our predominately white campus. We are given an opportunity to showcase why black is so beautiful.”

The upcoming Black History Month programming from the Office of Inclusion and Diversity (OID) includes a lecture by Sister Thea Bowman on the Biblical representation of women and their connection to modern black activism as well as a temporary exhibit set up by the Lest We Forget Travelling Slave Museum. The OID organized these events in conjunction with other sponsors, such as the BSU.

Books about black history line a wall of the Francis A. Drexel Library (Photo by Luke Malanga ’20).

“We try to create a set of programs that appeals to different audiences and meets a variety of outcomes,” Nixon said. “For some of the programs, departments and groups approached Inclusion and Diversity to co-sponsor, which allows all of us to reach a broader audience.”

These events may be important for awareness, but black students still remain in an extreme minority at St. Joe’s. The most recent class for which there is data— the class of 2015—was only 3.8 percent black/African American. This is an issue that’s being addressed by multiple departments, according to Nixon.

“We are working to understand and build on what helps students stay and succeed,” Nixon said. “The President’s Council on Inclusion and Diversity is working with several groups to understand more about retention and student success in order to recommend strategies for improvement. We know some of the barriers to a welcoming campus climate, and minimizing those requires structural and behavioral changes.”

Briscoe agrees that internal changes need to be made in order to promote diversity.

“The only true way to correct or lessen this [diversity] issue is to treat others as you would want to be treated,” Briscoe said. “Examples of this would be for university organizations to make sure that February isn’t the only time of the academic calendar when they are looking to the BSU for reasons to engage, but rather cultivate genuine relationships with our organization. The only true lasting change will come if people are willing to go outside of their regular SJU bubble and engage.”

About the author

Molly Grab

Molly Grab

Molly Grab, ’17, Editor Emeritus

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