Campus and community honor Black History Month in February

Black Student Union grads

Black History Month will provide the UO opportunities to celebrate and honor the strength, contributions and struggles of the black community on campus and beyond, as well as to assess where community is and where it needs to go.

In her essay on Black History Month, Vice President for Equity and Inclusion Yvette Alex-Assensoh spoke of the current environment.

“Black History Month 2020 is an opportunity for us to not just recognize and celebrate black leaders, but to thoughtfully assess the landscape of black leadership in Oregon and the critical role higher education plays in developing and cultivating these leaders, especially at the University of Oregon,” she writes.

Throughout February, opportunities will be easy to find.

The month starts off with a Black History Month mixer at the Lyllye Reynolds-Parker Black Cultural Center. Soul2Soul Networking Night is Monday, Feb. 3, from 6 to 8 p.m. Students, faculty members and staff are invited to help launch a new tradition that kicks off a month of speakers and events at the center.

The Black Cultural Center will host events all during Black History Month. Among them:

On Feb. 19, the center and black studies presents “The State of Blackness at UO” from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

On Feb. 20,  the Labor and Education Research Center will present “A Labor Black History Month Event with April Sims” from 3 to 5 p.m. April Sims is the secretary-treasurer of the Washington State Labor Council and the first woman of color and the first black person to be elected a labor council executive officer.

The event is co-sponsored by the Black Studies Program, Center for the Study of Women in Society, the Department of Sociology and the Wayne Morse Center for Law and Politics.

Also on Feb. 20 from 6 to 7:30 p.m., the Koinonia Center and the NAACP/Eugene-Springfield will sponsor “The Civil Rights Movement and the Notion of Turn the Other Cheek.”

Lectures with local and national figures will be offered at other locations throughout the month. The Oregon Humanities Center will present Ruha Benjamin, associate professor in the Department of African American Studies at Princeton University and founder of the JUST DATA Lab.

Benjamin’s talk, "Beyond Buzzwords: Reimagining the Default Settings of Technology and Society," will be Tuesday, Feb. 4, at 7:30 p.m. at the First United Methodist Church, 1376 Olive St.

UO political scientist Debra Thompson will present “Return: Race, Democracy, and the Boundaries of Belonging in North America” on Wednesday, Feb. 5, at 6 p.m. at  Viking Braggot, 2490 Willamette St., as part of Ideas on Tap, the UO Museum of Natural and Cultural History's monthly pub talk.

Guy-Uriel E. Charles, a law professor at Duke Law School, will speak on “The Permanence of Racism: Race, Power and the Architecture of American Democracy” Feb. 10 at the Knight Law Center, Room 175. The event is a collaborative effort that combines the Derrick Bell Lecture of the School of Law with the African American Workshop and Lecture Series, sponsored by the Office of the President and facilitated by the Division of Equity and Inclusion.

An RSVP is requested and can be made online.

In addition to Charles’ talk, Janet Dewart Bell will offer remarks. Bell is the widow of Derrick Bell, who established the Derrick Bell Lecture Series on Race in American Society at the New York University School of Law. She is the author of “Lighting the Fires of Freedom: African American Women in the Civil Rights Movement.”

A banquet and basketball games will round out Black History Month. The Black Law Students Association will host their annual Black History Month Banquet on Feb. 29 at 6 p.m. at the Ford Alumni Center’s Giustina Ballroom. BEOregon will sponsor Black History Month basketball games with a men’s game Feb. 27 and a women’s game Feb. 28. Both take place at 8 p.m. at Matthew Knight Arena.

Throughout Black History month and continuing until May is the exhibit “Carrie Mae Weems: The Usual Suspects” at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art. Portland-born Weems investigates family relationships, race and cultural identity, sexism, class, political systems, and the consequences of power through photographs, text, fabric, audio, digital images and video.

And the Museum of Natural History continues the exhibit “Racing to Change: Oregon's Civil Rights Years,” chronicling the civil rights movement in Eugene during the 1960s and 1970s. 

Black History Month events are also happening in the Eugene-Springfield area. Blacks in Government will have its annual banquet Feb. 7 at the Graduate Eugene hotel with a social hour from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. and the banquet from 7 to 8 p.m. The keynote speaker will be the U.S. Magistrate Judge Mustafa Kasubhai on the topic “Equity and Privilege: Friends or Foes?” For tickets call 541-852-9782.

The NAACP/Eugene-Springfield will have its annual Freedom Fund Dinner on Feb. 21 from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Valley River Inn. This night of networking in support of democracy and community excellence includes Assensoh as the keynote speaker.

Assensoh’s essay explores what the a community can do during February.

“Black History Month 2020 is as good an opportunity as any to learn, build community, and engage in the conversations that highlight strong leadership and inspire the next generation to step into its power,” Assensoh writes. “We hope all in our campus community can take advantage of this powerful month of programming. Once again, Black History Month is not just a time to celebrate, but also an opportunity to assess needs and organize ways to continue pushing forward.”

To read Assensoh’s full essay, see the Division of Equity and Inclusion website.

—By tova stabin, University Communications