The month kicked off with a Slam Poet Society Coffee House on February 1, co-sponsored by the Slam Poet Society and Af-Am. “Spoken word is a very important art form in the African-American community,” said Af-Am historian Reilly Lorastein ’13. “Students of color on campus have always been interested in spoken word and [the Coffee House] is a tradition that we do.”
Students recited either original works or poems written by others; a popular poet was Alysia Harris. The audience kept the atmosphere fun and easy to ensure performers felt comfortable sharing their work. Even if a performer flubbed a line, his or her peers snapped their fingers in encouragement, a common practice at slam poetry readings.
The next event celebrating Black History Month was the annual Soul Food Dinner at Thorne Dining Hall on February 12, a tradition at Thorne Hall since 2003. According to Thorne Dining Hall Unit Manager Mark Dickey, “The meal was the brainchild of Betty Trout-Kelly, then executive assistant for institutional diversity and equity, as part of the campus celebration of Black History Month. Each year, members of the African American Society help Dining Service plan the event, often providing recipes, décor and music. It is one of the most popular theme meals of the year.” Dickey was right; Thorne was packed with students excited to eat their fill of home-style food.
Most recently, Arhea Marshall ’15, minister of education for Af-Am, brought a steel pan drum band to campus called Brand New Mixture. The Caribbean-style band, based out of Windham, Maine, introduced a feel-good vibe to Smith Union last Saturday with covers of classic hits such as “Three Little Birds” by Bob Marley.
“In discussing Black History Month, there’s a tendency to focus on the American diaspora. Since I was born and raised in the Caribbean, I wanted to bring another aspect of black history to campus,” Marshall explained.
Over the final days of February, other Black History Month events will include a discussion by Keith Boykin, author of For Colored Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When The Rainbow Is Still Not Enough, in Beam Classroom at 4 p.m. on February 22, followed by dinner in Daggett Lounge at 6 p.m. For those interested in a little dancing, the annual Ebony Ball will be in Moulton Union from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. on February 23. Finally, comedian Lyndel Pleasant will perform in Smith Auditorium at 8 p.m. on February 28.
Photos and story by Margot Howard ’13