Buena Vista University’s Black Student Union celebrates Black History Month


Daniel-Leon Kit

Photo Courtesy of Daniel-Leon Kit Walker

Olivia Wieseler, Co-Editor-in-Chief

Walking down the hallway with your nose buried in your own digital world, you decide to look up for just a split second to find Jesse Owens winning the gold in three races during the 1936 Olympics. To some, this was just another day in sports history.  To others, it was a moment in African-American history that showed the greatness of people of all colors.

February is Black History Month, and one thing Ebony King, director of multicultural engagement at Buena Vista University (BVU), is doing to celebrate is set up an info stand right outside the new Center for Diversity and Inclusion with a new inspiring moment in African American history every day.

“All heritage months are important.  I think that whether you are part of that particular ethnicity group or not, it’s important to learn about the history of other people,” said King.

According to History.com, Black History Month started out as “Negro History Week” in 1926, but became a full month celebration in 1976.  February was chosen because it was the birth month of both Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln.

King said that the Black student population at BVU has increased over the past couple of years, making it that much more important for these students to educate their peers about who they are, which is why many of the events happening this month came out of the Black Student Union (BSU). Some events BSU put on were educational tables, trap karaoke, and discussions about Black pop culture.

Other events include Lunch and Learn presentations by some staff members who are a part of the Black community.  Portia Gresham, area coordinator of the suites and Liberty, presented on Wednesday, Feb. 6, about the African Diaspora, which is the dispersing of the African people from their original homeland.

Gresham’s presentation led her to do a DNA background test, which she had been interested in doing for herself since one time when she worked at the Stroger Hospital in Chicago one of her African co-workers thought she was Nigerian.

“I remember her eyes and she’s analyzing my face, calling things out [like] ‘your cheekbones, your nose, your skin complexion,’” said Gresham. “It was fascinating to have this encounter where these people are looking at me, people who are indigenous, people who have experience, people who would know.”

However, Gresham found out that there was not an ounce of Nigerian in her after taking the Ancestry.com DNA test. But what she did learn is that her genetic makeup comes from many different parts of the world.

“We think about the color black.  In order to make the color black, you have to add all the colors, all the primary colors, and then you get black. And I think that’s fitting, and it’s true for me,” said Gresham.

Gresham explained that because of the Diaspora, identity has been difficult for many Black people who might be of the same race but have different ethnicities.  For Gresham and King, that is what makes celebrating Black History Month so important: not only learning about where you come from but where you want to go, figuring out your identity.

“I think it’s also important for black students to know where they came from, and to not forget that,” said King. “And to know what’s happening now in the present and who’s doing great and marvelous things and getting inspiration from that, so that they can propel themselves into the future.”

BSU Week was Feb. 11-17. Remaining Black History Month events include:

February 19 – Lunch and Learn with Dr. Merrin Guice: “African American Poetry of Struggle and Identity” in Center for Diversity and Inclusion

February 21 – True Black History Museum, 9am-3pm in the Multipurpose Room

February 26 – African Culture Day in Center for Diversity and Inclusion

February 28 – Lunch and Learn with Ebony King: “Colorism: Chains of Complexion” in Center for Diversity and Inclusion


*February 17–An earlier version of this article said African Culture Day is on February 28.  It has been corrected to February 26.