Students filled Bishop’s Lounge in the University Union on Thursday to kick off the Multicultural Center’s Black History Month with the screening of the film “A Letter to the President.”
The center planned six free events for the month to promote awareness. The first was so successful they planned a second showing at the last minute for Feb. 5 at 8 p.m., said Renoda Campbell, director of the Multicultural Center.
“A Letter To The President” is a documentary narrated by Snoop Dogg. It features rap artists speaking about their views on policies from the ’80s and ’90s.
“You’ll learn something new,” said Brenton Smith, student assistant in the Multicultural Center and civil engineering junior. “It’s shocking the way they present it, but you have to sit back and take it for what it is. They aren’t historians or scholars but they do have firsthand experiences with the policies of that time.”
Noah “Supanova” Hayes also performed Thursday night at Another Type of Groove: Spoken Word Poetry in the Performing Arts Center.
The next event will feature the reggae band Resination performing at UU Hour from 11 a.m. to noon Feb. 8 in the University Union Plaza.
At 6:30 p.m. the same day, Bakari Kitwana, an author and expert on hip-hop, will speak at the Performing Arts Center, room 128. His presentation, “Dr. King’s Legacy and the Hip-Hop Generation,” is free and open to the public.
“The guy is really well known,” Smith said. “He has been published in the Los Angeles Times and The Washington Post. We are going to have a discussion after his talk.”
There will also be a screening of the documentary, “Sierra Leone’s Refugee All-Stars” at 5:30 p.m. on Feb. 21 in the UU, room 220.
“The film is about a group of musicians while they are living as refugees in the Republic of Guinea,” Smith said. “After the movie, Abdul Sesay, a (Cal) Poly student, will talk about his personal experiences in Sierra Leone.”
A “Hip-Hop Art Showcase” will conclude the month of events from 5:30 to 8 p.m. on Feb. 22 in the UU Plaza.
“There will be two panels in the UU and professional graffiti artists will perform live art. We will have a booth with information about the history of graffiti,” Smith said. “We want to shed a positive light on it because there is definitely a negative association. It really is an art form though. Don’t worry though, the students won’t be allowed to touch the spray cans, only the professionals will.”
Smith thinks the whole month of activities will be beneficial. “There is not a class where people learn this stuff. It should serve as an eye opener so they can do some of their own research,” he said.
“We really wanted to get the student perspective for this. The hip-hop focus was Brenton’s idea,” Campbell said.
When asked how students respond to all this information, Campbell said, “It’s nice if the professors tie it into their curriculums. So, having faculty and staff attend really helps.”
The main purpose of the month is to appreciate another culture, Smith said. “This is a way to let people know there is more out there than the dead white male curriculum. There are other people of different cultures that have achieved things too. It’s good to have black history.”