Uplifting programs to celebrate Black History Month

GCU student Ajienne Lambey was inspired to showcase Black student talents to open Black History Month events.

By Mike Kilen
GCU News Bureau

After the past year’s racial unrest in the U.S., Grand Canyon University students took a creative approach when asked to come up with ideas for Black History Month events.

“We wanted to not focus so much on the negative parts of Black history. So, it turned into students expressing their interests and talents,” said Donald Glenn, Director of the Multicultural, Diversity and Inclusion Office. “We wanted to let students express themselves rather than on information that is important but may not be the best part of history.”

Student Ajienne Lambey had one of those ideas, Thursday night’s “Afrotastic Expose.” It's a showcase of Black students’ artistic talents at Ethington Theatre and leads off a series of February events that take a celebratory approach to Black history and identity. Black student singers, dancers and artists will display their skills at 6 p.m.

Brenton Konner McKnight

“I wanted a way to connect the Black community on campus because I felt we were separated,” said Lambey, a junior, of the many nationalities and clubs at GCU. “The best way to do that is through music and artistic talent so they can enjoy themselves.”

Lambey, a singer from Belize, will join performers from other countries, including Gabriella Agyemang from Ghana, and Brenton Konnor McKnight of Qatar, a former contestant on the NBC dance competition show, “World of Dance,” she said.

“As a Black student here, I really wanted to share this to uplift the community here,” Lambey said. “I hope they feel represented and that their story is shared.”

The month’s theme continues with tabling displays on campus Monday, Tuesday and Feb. 11, when “unsung heroes” of Black history will be featured.

Among the unsung heroes are Major League Baseball home run champion Hank Aaron, who recently died, and Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm, the first African American woman elected to the U.S. Congress.

“She introduced 50 pieces of legislation and championed racial equity and ending the Vietnam war,” Glenn said.

Highlighting Black heroes and talents during the month’s events will not mean ignoring the struggles.

The Black Excellence Roundtable on Feb. 18 includes guests who lived through racial strife in America.

Donald Glenn, Director of the Multicultural, Diversity and Inclusion Office, leads the Black History Month events.

“It’s an opportunity to ask them questions on unity and community and how they went through the Civil Rights movement and Rodney King and hear their advice on how younger people can address these issues,” Glenn said.

“We are looking back at the past and these contributions and what Black people have gone through and all the wrong things that were done, but also how to push forward and stay positive.”

The program, “13 steps: Breaking Barriers to Racial Equality,” on Feb. 25 at Ethington Theatre continues the discussion with a showing of the documentary “13th,” followed by a discussion and appearance by the GCU Dance team.

All students, not just Black students, are encouraged to participate in the events, which serve to remember the pain and glory of the Black experience.

“It is a continuation of what we have done in sharing the culture with campus,” Glenn said. “In light of the past year, I think it’s important than GCU remembers these people, honors them and reviews the past so we can build a brighter future, especially in the young minds we are shaping.

“We are preparing them for society and to be thought leaders, so I think it’s important that we have these conversations and that our student body learns the history of Black people and what they’ve gone through.”

BLACK HISTORY MONTH EVENTS

“Afrotastic Expose”: 6-7:30 p.m. Thursday, Ethington Theatre. Black students display artistic talents for Black History Month.

Black History Month tabling: 12-1 p.m. Feb. 8, The Grove; 12-1 p.m. Feb. 9, Diamondback; 12-1 p.m. Feb. 11, Promenade.

Black Excellence Roundtable: 6-7 p.m. Feb. 18, Building 18, Conference Room 537. Civil rights mentors offer advice.

Black History Month program: 4:45 p.m. Feb 25, Ethington Theatre. “13 steps: Breaking Barriers to Racial Equality.” Documentary “13th,” plus discussion and program with GCU Dance team.

Grand Canyon University senior writer Mike Kilen can be reached at [email protected] or at 602-639-6764.

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