Striving to provide heightened cultural awareness and to address the issue of race relations on campus, the Black Student Union (BSU) will host a variety of events to celebrate Black History Month.
Black History Month has been celebrated in the United States each February since 1926.
“For the month, we’re just trying to create some dialogue,” BSU President Leon Smith said. “We want to get people thinking about political and social issues because this campus is pretty apathetic when it comes to this kind of thing.”
B.J. Davis, a doctoral intern at Cal Poly’s counseling center who serves as a liaison to the Multicultural Center, said he feels racial relations on campus needs improvement.
“There doesn’t seem to be much of an interest in diversity and multicultural issues or events,” he said. “There doesn’t seem to be a strong push for cohesion or unity.”
The BSU, which hosts events throughout the year, will post a board in the University Union for Cal Poly students to openly comment about race relations on campus.
Questions as direct as “How do you feel about race relations on campus?,” “What do you think the facility’s responsibility is?,” ” What would you be willing to do?” will be on the board, and anybody can write whatever they want, Smith said.
“Hopefully we’ll get people to write how they feel,” Davis said. “What their insecurities are, what they like or dislike and how people feel about diversity on campus.”
The board will be up for two weeks, beginning this week.
“We’re going to take the board and have a culture talk, which will be on Feb. 23,” Smith said. “We’ll invite everybody to come – all clubs and people from the community – to create some dialogue about race relations on campus and what we can do to take ownership and doing something about it.”
The culture talk will take place at 5 p.m. in the San Luis Lounge, UU room 221.
“We need to talk about these things,” Davis said. “Get uncomfortable, but then get comfortable. That’s usually how change works.”
“People need to be aware of their prejudices and aware of their biases,” he added. “The way to get past this is to force interaction.”
Various other events will occur at Cal Poly throughout the month to celebrate black history.
The events will begin with “Another Type of Groove,” which will feature Jerry Quickley, a three-time Los Angeles Poetry Grand Slam winner and repeat finalist at the National Poetry Slam for a poetry performance. The event will be held on Feb. 2 at 7:30 p.m. in Philips Hall.
Black students, faculty and staff will share their food and culture at a “Taste of Africa” on Feb. 16. The event will be held at the E-Africa Gallery on 1531 Monterey St. at 6:30 p.m.
The Multicultural Center will host “Higher Movement,” a cultural dance and musical performance during UU Hour on Feb. 20.
The BSU and San Luis Obispo’s Cultural Collective Group will be collaborating to put on a performance with dancing, drum circles and different aspects of black culture at Farmers’ Market on Feb. 23. The performance will appeal to native African heritage and modern black culture.
“Black history is everyone’s history,” Smith said. “We’re all a part of this. In creating this country everyone played an integral part in its formation. Without the slaves, the country wouldn’t have happened the way it did. You can’t segment (history) and focus on one people’s history without focusing on everybody’s history at the same time.”
One of the main issues Davis said he hopes to address through the month’s events is the stereotype of black culture.
“There is absolute evidence that African-Americans are disproportionately represented as uneducated, unemployed, poor and incarcerated – Do people believe African-Americans are genetically dumber, lazier, more apathetic and antisocial than other populations? Or is there another factor?” he asked.
The BSU, which consists of around 30 members, exists to create a community for black students and all students on campus.