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Students kick off Black History Month

Engage. Enlighten. Evolve. The Union of African American Students (UAAS) and Center for Diversity and Community (CDC) highlighted this theme at their annual Black History Month Kickoff on Thursday night.

Black History Month is a time to acknowledge African-Americans and their culture. UAAS and the CDC are focusing on the evolution of Black Fashion, as well as the dynamics and ideologies of Black History. At the kickoff, students learned about black designers and their role in the fashion industry, as well as styles inspired by African-American culture.

Marcus Destin, sophomore communications major and UAAS president, said Black History Month has always been important to him but living in South Dakota and going to USD has made him appreciate it even more.

“Black History Month is very important to me and will always be important to me because of my identity as a black man, but living in South Dakota, has taken my appreciation for the month to an entirely different level,” Destin said. “It has taught me not to take the culture that so many before me have sacrificed for, for granted. It’s my responsibility to continue to educate about those contributions and sacrifices in order to continually push for progress.”

The kickoff event featured a collection of displays depicting African American fashion, music, speakers and presentations.

First-year social work major Eden Liebenthal said she was drawn to this event because it stood out, and said she came away with a new sense of understanding.

“The Union of African American Students always put on such interesting events,” Liebenthal said. “I think it’s really good because there’s not a huge amount of diversity at USD, so they need to bring it through this. When it’s underrepresented, people might not know about it.”

First-year psychology major Freya Gayken said she was also interested in the event because she was curious to learn about a new culture.

“I think it’s really cool because for someone who grew up here, going to these events might bring up something that they don’t know,” Gayken said. “It’s really important for people to be exposed to every culture, even if it’s just a little bit here.
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In addition to the kickoff event, UAAS and the CDC will be presenting events all month long to celebrate African American history and culture. There will be a Black Love panel around Valentine’s Day where students can learn about the dynamics of love and relationships in the Black community. There will also be a student-led discussion called “Ever Wonder Why?” which is an opportunity for students to discuss the prejudice and stereotypes behind race, gender, religion, class and sexuality.

Destin said he hopes USD students attend these events learn and talk about Black History, as well as African-American culture.

“We hope that beyond the food and entertainment everyone leaves educated with new information and insight to the African American culture and experience, and continues to pass that information on or retain that background knowledge long after Black History Month is over,” Destin said. “Black History Month is not a time for short reflection and then forgetting everything after the month is over, it is a continuous celebration because the sacrifices and contributions to the United States and the world never stopped.”