The UCSD Black Student Union hosted the Black History Month Opener Monday, Feb. 2 in Price Center Plaza. The event was meant to welcome UC students, faculty, staff and members of the surrounding community in kicking off a series of events lasting from Jan. 25 through March 7.
The event began around 12:20 p.m. with the introductions of BSU Retention Coordinator Andre Thompson and Traditions Coordinator Victoria Gichohi. Other officers of the BSU subsequently introduced themselves.
Gichohi, who helped plan the event along with BSU Chair Jazzalyn Livingston, said that she considered the opener a success despite a difficult planning process.
“Jazzalyn and I did our best to reach out to current students and staff, such as Edwina Welch, director of the Cross-Cultural Center here at UCSD,” Gichohi told the UCSD Guardian. “Without their efforts, this Black History Month Opener would have not been successful at all.”
After a rendition of “Black National Anthem,” a song originally written as a poem called “Lift Every Voice” by James Weldon Johnson in 1899, Welch took to the podium to give a talk.
Welch’s presentation, entitled “Click Through,” centered around contextualizing history to better understand contemporary times.
“I think it’s really important that we understand the context of the time that we’re in,” Welch said in her talk. “What I want to suggest is that we all think, particularly as people of UCSD who are going to leave this institution to go out and do wonderful things in the private sector, nonprofit sector and other areas, that maybe it’s time for us to slow down a little bit, understand the context in which we are hearing and seeing things and maybe click through.”
Welch also read from an essay by Alicia Garza, the co-creator of the social media platform-turned national organization, Black Lives Matter.
The organization, which opposes police brutality and practices like racial profiling, is currently being represented on campus by a collection of materials gathered from print and online resources called #blacklivesmatter: A Century of Resistance to State-Sanctioned Violence. The exhibit will be featured at Geisel Library until the end of February.
Student spoken word performances followed the conclusion of Welch’s speech. Among those performing was BSU External Vice Chair Brilon Cooper, who performed Maya Angelou’s piece “Still I Rise.”
BSU Co-Publicity Chair Kyler Nathan told the Guardian that the spoken word pieces were his favorite part of the event.
“The spoken word pieces were empowering,” Nathan said. “And I got to know a more personal side of people through them.”
Before the closing of the event, a dance performance was put on by Livingston, Gichohi and another student, Love Gordon. The event ended around 2 p.m.
Other BSU officers introduced at the event included Internal Vice Chair Briana Thrift, Co-Retention Chair Derek Van de Streek and Art Historian Sabrina Evans.
Alexandra Villar, a Thurgood Marshall College junior in attendance at the opener, spoke to the Guardian about why she believes events like these are important to the UCSD community.
“UCSD students need another perspective,” Villar told the Guardian. “It’s lacking the awareness needed in order to understand what’s going on today. People are not well-informed because they haven’t been taught anything besides what’s in the history books.”
BSU will be involved with several other events occurring on campus during the remainder of Black History Month. There will be a free showing of the film “Black Power Mixtape” from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the Black Resource Center, and Feb. 4 through Feb. 7 BSU will also be involved with the staging of the play “Venus” by Suzan-Lori Parks. The play, which is based on a true story, will be presented by the department of theater and dance.
Furthermore, BSU, in partnership with several other UCSD organizations, will be hosting a dedication of the Black Legacy Mural on the first floor of Price Center East. Finally, the Kumba Fest will be held Feb. 28 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the Price Center Multipurpose Room.