Black History Month was in full force at Queens College, with the Africana Studies Department and Black Student Union (BSU) navigating pandemic protocols to deliver an extensive itinerary of in-person and virtual events that aim to celebrate Black history.
With Queens College continuing to transition to fully in-person campus operations, the virtual format has helped to promote accessibility for students still concerned about COVID-19. These efforts have been met with varying levels of success, however, as larger functions once a staple for past years of Black History Month have now had to be adjusted due to CUNY guidelines.
“COVID-19 has made it complicated to fully celebrate Black History Month on campus,” BSU said in a statement. “One of the major events that (we) planned on being organized was a BSU Met Gala, where members of the club and other African American students would be given a chance to showcase their talents and fashion. Due to COVID-19, however, restrictions and other complications forced the Met Gala event to be pushed back to March.”
Despite these setbacks, BSU was able to have their first successful in-person meeting on Monday, February 14, where members got the chance to share their excitement about the club and express the difficulty in commemorating Black History Month during the pandemic.
One move orchestrated was a “Black Out” on Wednesday, February 23 in response to anti-black slurs that were graffitied on the wall of Delaney Hall. Club members also signed a petition voicing necessary requests about resolving these hate crimes while reassuring the safety of all students no matter what their background.
Queens College President Frank H. Wu. also commented on the incident, saying, “In 2020, we all witnessed many racial injustices. They were revealed publicly in a manner that could not be denied, captured on camera and described in compelling personal testimonies. We believe it has become more important than ever to celebrate Black History Month. We hope that the past and the present of the Black community will be discussed meaningfully, within the intellectual traditions of Queens College, to bring about understanding and change.”
The Africana Studies Department at Queens College continues to be a driving force in commemorating Black History Month. With Professor Natanya Duncan as the current Director, the move is sure to promote future events celebrating the African diaspora across campus.
This observance isn’t just present in other CUNY campuses, but also extends to New York City in general. Distinguished Queens College Political Science Professor François Pierre-Louis, whose research interests include immigration, transnationalism, and Haitian politics, spoke to The Knight News about the historical roots surrounding this dynamic:
“New York City has been the home of African Americans since the foundation of the Republic. In fact, some of the most famous African Americans, such as Pierre Toussaint, contributed greatly to New York City in the 19th century. The presence of African Americans was evident everywhere. It is reported that Queens College was built on land that was owned by African Americans. It is appropriate for New York City to recognize the contributions of African Americans.”
While the pandemic has posed many challenges in organizing in-person and virtual events, according to BSU, “This Black History Month has been filled with compromise, unity, and resilience. This month showed us the reason and the importance of the Black Student Union. Having a place to discuss racial situations and to support one another is crucial. We look forward to getting more involved in the upcoming semesters. Happy Black History Month!”
Future prominent events taking place at Queens College in honor of Black History Month include, but are not limited to:
– A Tribute to Aretha Franklin: The Queen of Soul – (March 20). Aretha Franklin is recognized as the most successful female recording artist in history. This moving tribute will be a tender and spiritual reflection upon the life of an iconic industry titan. Register Here