February is Black History Month, and the Union of African American Students are celebrating their culture while getting USD students involved.
The theme for USD’s Black History Month is “Who am I? I am Black History” and one main goal is to discuss the significance of appropriation versus appreciation. For each event this month, members of UAAS will educate the university about major figures in black history.
Santina Lokonobei, UAAS co-president and senior biology major, said she’s excited to get students involved in Black History Month.
“It shows how perseverance of an underrepresented group leads to barriers being broken, ceilings being shattered and how over time, steps are being taken forward,” Lokonobei said. “In my personal life, it shows me that I can continue to take those steps forward, even if they’re small steps. It’s all about celebrating the perseverance of African Americans and how we’ve pushed the envelope over time.”
The UAAS has organized several events to hit on all the bases of black history and culture. These events include a Dynamics of Black Love Panel on Feb. 13 which will focus on an interactive discussion on the nature of relationships in the black community and how couples deal with day-to-day issues in society. They will also be hosting a free showing of “Black Panther” on Feb. 19, Marvel’s first black superhero film.
Throughout the month, Lokonobei said she encourages all students to come to the events and be part of history.
“Overall, I really want to give the students of USD a window to a viewpoint they don’t see on a regular basis,” Lokonobei said. “I also want them to be entertained and to have fun and immerse themselves in black history. That way, it’s not being on the outside looking in. I want students to be able to come to our events and feel welcome.”
The African Student Association (ASA) also organizes events to educate students about African culture. Although ASA hasn’t planned any events for Black History Month, ASA president and junior sociology major Diamond Hall said the events organized by UAAS are a great opportunity for all USD students to get involved and learn.
“No matter what culture or background you’re from, definitely take advantage of coming to these different cultural events because you’ll be surprised what you learn and the people you meet,” Hall said. “It’s an amazing opportunity because you don’t know if you’ll ever get that opportunity again once you graduate. This is also a great space to talk about uncomfortable issues or questions and discuss it in a safe environment.”
Marcus Destin, UAAS co-president and sophomore communications major, said he’s looking forward to sharing the importance of Black History Month with the USD community.
“It highlights a lot of important people,” Destin said. “We are currently living through history, we are witnessing history right now. To me it’s important, because how can we learn if we never go back and appreciate what we’ve been through as a culture? We can learn from it and try not to repeat the mistakes.”
Hall said her favorite part of ASA is learning about the social issues in Africa and organizing events to teach students about them. When it comes to dealing with ignorance, Hall said her best defense is to have an open conversation.
“I focus more on educating someone instead of attacking them for their views,” Hall said. “I truly believe that having effective communication will hopefully address those issues but I understand sometimes it doesn’t work that way.”
Lokonobei said one of the main goals of Black History Month is starting the conversation and allowing people to ask questions.
“I think dealing with any type of ignorance, I will take a step back and try to understand where the person is coming from,” Lokonobei said. “If they’re not saying anything that’s attacking me, maybe they do want to learn, they just don’t know how to ask. Here in South Dakota, we’re super nice to each other and you always have the chance to give people the benefit of the doubt. People change when they learn something new.”
Destin said black history keeps going as they continue to make history everyday,
“We can learn from each other,” Destin said. “Our organization is for everybody, we have a pretty diverse membership. When it comes down to the events, I think the people that attend the events are willing to listen to what we have to say and are having fun while they’re learning.”