With a backdrop of softly playing Africana tunes, Stony Brook welcomed students and faculty members on Wednesday to commemorate Black History Month in its 36th year of celebration. Stony Brook has honored Black History Month for over 25 years.
Students and faculty members were greeted by a mini multicultural fair in the back of SAC Ballroom A, prior to presentations. Many of the displays related to African-American culture in some aspect. Presenters included Caribbean Students Organization, African-American Brotherhood and Minorities in Medicine. They also offered presenters from different Greek life organizations, such as Zeta Phi Beta and Delta Sigma Theta. Both sororities are a part of the Divine Nine, an honorable title dedicated to the first nine multi-cultural Greek life organizations in the nation.
Secretary of the African Students Union, Folasade Ajibade offered information on her club’s activities, which vary from political and cultural discussions to their very popular King of Africa/Queen of the Motherland pageants. Beauty contests aside, the club also coordinates charitable events geared towards needy nations, specifically in Africa.
The spectators eventually gathered and observed quietly as the opening ceremony began. President Samuel L. Stanley offered his words which slightly resembled a history lesson, but allowed viewers to understand the importance of February and African American history in particular. Although some joke that February had been chosen to represent black history because it is the shortest month of the year, it is also rich in past events that have shaped African-American culture. On February 3, 1870, Congress passed the 15th Amendment which had given (limited) rights for African-American to vote. February 23 marks the birthday of W. E. B. Du Bois, co-founder of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. February also marks a few morbid events for the African American community, such as Malcolm X’s death on the 21 in 1965.
Cheryl Chambers, Associate Dean for Multicultural Affairs and Co-Chair of the Black History Month Committee helped set up much of the event. This program marks her 22nd year honoring black history with Stony Brook. This year’s opening ceremony featured guest speaker Andrez S. Carberry, a successful alumnus of Stony Brook University and lawyer who has worked with the Pajama Program, a New York City based charity.
“To me, Black History Month is not only about the past, it is now,” he said, commanding the attention of the spectators with a strong voice and faint Jamaican accent. He gave a brief description of his days at Stony Brook and strongly advised students to remain as active as he had been as a student. “Serve because you want to do something for others,” he said. He showed concern with the decline of African American enrollment at Stony Brook, noting that black make up less than 6% of the undergraduate population. “I know more black men are headed to prison than to college,” but he strongly advised the audience to act as teachers and to spread the word of education so others may embrace it as he had done.
But perhaps the most united moment of the ceremony was during the singing of the Black National Anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” The diverse audience of blacks, Latinos, Asians and students of other ethnicities had all been able to sing along to the lyrics of the song as they had appeared on the screen, “Out from the gloomy past, ‘til now we stand, free at last.”