Black History Month 2021

Black History Month 2021 over a green, yellow, and red paint lines with a black fist in the center
Black Lives at the UO
“2020 on any number of levels was rough, but I also got this sense of reaffirmation in that to be Black is to be resilient.”
Marcus Langford, Associate Dean of Students

On Friday afternoon, January 8, 2021, a group of eight Black students, faculty, staff, and alumni got together virtually to discuss Black History Month, their experiences at the UO, how they find and bring community here, what 2020 taught them, and more. Hear their conversation, and then scroll down to hear more from each of the individual panelists.

Nicole Commissiong
“I’ve been on campus for a long time, so I know a lot of people. I feel one of the things I’ve enjoyed is getting to know people and I’ve really built a community not only of colleagues, but the many students that I worked with at my time at the Law School. I miss them dearly, they are such an important part of my life. That’s very much my community. The folks that are around campus and especially the students here at the UO.”

Marcilyn Burke
“I’m really grateful that someone reached out to me. It wasn’t necessarily that we had a formal program, but that people took it upon themselves to say let’s bring her into the fold. I’m really grateful for that and I hope I am a part of doing that for other people.”

Ellis Mimms
“I also found a lot of support in BMA [Black Male Alliance]…. Just having a bunch of brothers who were there to support you and want to see you succeed; it was everything I needed and from there I was able to get past those times when I felt like I didn’t belong.”

Jasmine Jackson
“In the dorm it was very evident there was no one who looked like me or my Black roommate..the opportunity that I did find in that discomfort within the first week I was able to go on a retreat with the CMAE [Center for Multicultural Academic Excellence]…a lot of the folk that attend are Latinx, Brown and Black folks…I found folks that were connected to BSU [Black Student Union], BWA [Black Women of Achievement] and were connected to all these programs that helped and aided folks that looked like me.”

Samm Martin
“And for me community is those people that trigger that internal sigh of relief. So if you see them on a call or go into a room and you see them there, you go, ah yes, my people are here, it’s OK....that’s what community is for me and I know that I want to be that sigh of relief for somebody else.”

Marcus Langford
“The biggest challenge I had would I even make it here?…All of my college and graduate school happened at primarily white institutions…One of the things that got me through was a sense of community and what that community looked like … this notion of being able to have a shared experience with individuals, being able to connect with either Black faculty, staff or other students and knowing that you shared some commonalities or knowing that you could just say somethings to them and they would get it, and you would have the opportunity to be you.”

Alayna Grier
“One of the best things for me ended up being that fact that I was in the Native American Studies ARC during my freshman year and that gave me the opportunity to meet a lot of good professors that I made a strong connection with as well as friends that I still have today.”

Alyeecia Knight
“I would define community as comfort, being a place or even a group of people you can relate to, have meaningful conversations with and completely be yourself…Here at the UO I definitely found community through the BCC [Lyllye Reynolds-Parker Black Cultural Center].”

Excelling in the Face of Adversity

By Stella-Marie Akindayomi
Multicultural Academic Counselor and Black/African American Retention Specialist

“To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a state of rage almost all the time. And part of the rage is this: It isn't only what is happening to you, but it's what's happening around you all of the time.”
James Baldwin
Stella-Marie Akindayomi

Almost 60 years after James Baldwin spoke those words, the world watched as the United States displayed its continued dehumanization of Black people via police brutality and racism. The Black community was forced to navigate the challenges of the pandemic while enduring and managing the trauma and rage of racism.

The Father of Black History Month, Dr. Carter G. Woodson, worried artifacts and evidence of Black people in American culture would disappear if they were not preserved. Therefore, in 1924, he turned to his fraternity, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Incorporated, to promote Negro History and Literature Week. renamed Negro History Week in February of 1926. February was chosen in acknowledgment of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass’ birthdays. Indeed, Black history cannot be confined to one week. In 1976, Gerald Ford was the first United States president to issue a proclamation honoring Black History Month encouraging people to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”

Learning while in isolation has afforded time for reflection and self-validation. As we celebrate the contributions and essence of Black people, I charge you to learn Black history and value Black people. It is not enough that we exist; we must thrive and support each other. To echo Kyle Santos of the Career Center, being remote does not mean disconnect. I encourage you to engage with the Lyllye Reynolds-Parker Black Cultural Center and the various Black-centered organizations during Black History Month and beyond.

Black History Month 2021 Events

Black National Anthem:
Lift Every Voice and Sing

Reflections on Black History Month

By Alli Weseman
Multimedia Journalism Master’s student
Class of 2022


Alli Weseman As the clock strikes midnight on January 1, I’m reminded of how much everything has changed. No longer can we gather in a large group without a mask on or deny the problems that our Black brothers and sisters face every day.

There have been times that I questioned why I decided to attend UO, especially after this summer. I’m filled with hope that things can change and not to quit when the going gets tough. I owe it to my ancestors that wouldn’t be able to step foot on campus one hundred years ago to walk across that graduation stage at Hayward Field, master’s degree in hand.

For many, February is a time to celebrate loved ones but for me, February is a time to get in touch with my Black heritage. Reading black authors—from Alex Haley to Phoebe Robinson—as the rain falls outside my window.

During Black History Month at the University of Oregon, I feel connected with other students of color as we continue to take space in predominantly white institutions.


Community and Support:
The Black Strategies Group

The Black Strategies Group (BSG) works to build community and support the professional and personal development of Black/African American faculty and staff. This work also aims to increase our ability to support Black/African American students at the University of Oregon.

The BSG envisions a campus climate and community in which diligent efforts are made to recruit, promote, and retain Black faculty, staff, and senior leadership. The BSG’s goal is to ensure that all Black faculty and staff have opportunities to achieve their full potential and have a respected voice within the university system. Participation is open to all interested in supporting these goals.

Black Strategies Group


Mack Robinson taking second place at the olympics

Mack Robinson

Mack Robinson raced Jesse Owens in front of Adolf Hitler, and almost convinced his younger brother Jackie—yes, that Jackie Robinson—to follow him to the UO. But the Olympic medalist and NCAA champion’s legacy extends far beyond the world’s sporting arenas; he made the biggest impact in his community as a mentor and advocate for youth.

Read the full story: 'Second to None'

Black greek societies

Black Greek Life

Black Greek life has ebbed and flowed at the University of Oregon over the decades, alumni of Black Greek organizations and university officials are working to change that.

Black sororities and fraternities at the UO

Yvette Alex-Assensoh

A Time for Both Celebration and Urgency

As we recognize Black History Month 2021, we are called to balance our rightful excitement over a number of Black history firsts with the sense of urgency this moment in time demands.

Read the essay by VP for Equity and Inclusion, Yvette Alex-Assensoh


Black Student Union formed
Umoja Pan-African Scholars ARC established
Black Studies becomes minor
Interviews with historically significant African Americans via the TheHistoryMakers Digital Archive available through the UO Libraries

Faith Longnight Receives Inaugural Percy Julian Scholarship


Faith Longnight Faith Longnight, a junior with a double major in chemistry and sociology, has been selected as the first recipient of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry’s Percy Julian Scholarship, a new department scholarship award for chemistry and biochemistry majors at the University of Oregon. The Percy Julian Scholarship seeks to support talented undergraduate scientists in their pursuit of a career in chemistry and recognizes their contributions to promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion in STEM and their potential for further academic achievement.

Read more about Faith and the new scholarship


Black Lives Matter artist's grant

With the support of the Jordan Schnitzer Family Foundation, the University of Oregon’s Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art and the Lyllye Reynolds-Parker Black Cultural Center awarded 20 grants of $2,500 each to artists for their work in support of Black Lives Matter. Congratulations to all the winners, The JSMA and the BCC look forward to showing work from the grantees in the summer of 2021.

Read about the grant recipients

Black Lives Matter Protests:
Movement in Black and White

by Mya Lansing
Double-major in linguistics and German
Recipient of Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art and Lylle Reynolds-Parker Black Cultural Center Black Lives Matter Grant

by Mya Lansing
Double-major in linguistics and German
Recipient of Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art and Lylle Reynolds-Parker Black Cultural Center Black Lives Matter Grant


Mya Lansing with a Black Lives Matter sign


Tre Stewart, live streamer, Lincoln Memorial, Washington, DC, August 28


Carissa Dez, live streamer, Portland, October


Oregon Black Unity members, March on Washington 2020, Washington, DC, August 28


Xavier "Princess" Warner and members of Black Unity PDX

BLM Photo Exhibit

Black Studies Program

Winter Course List  
BLST 141 Writing in Black: Thought and Existence
ENG 241 Introduction to African American Literature
HIST 250 African American History
ES 352 Social Equity and Criminal Justice
WGS 399 Black Feminist Theory
ES 450  Race and Incarceration
HIST 470 Black Women of the  American West