Lecturer Sanford Williams, deputy managing director at the Federal Communications Commission, speaks at the Dean’s Speaker Series at the Caruso School of Law on Feb. 1. Williams spoke on the intersection between diversity, accessibility and the digital age. Photos by Brandon Rubsamen
Throughout February, people across the United States will celebrate Black History Month and remember and honor African American history and accomplishments.
At Pepperdine, various events will take place as students and faculty consider what Black History Month means and how they can support their peers. Black Student Association, Caruso School of Law and more are hosting events throughout the month to celebrate Black history and educate members of the Pepperdine community.
“I refuse to limit my celebrations of people from the African Diaspora to February,” said J. Goosby Smith, vice president for Community Belonging and chief diversity officer. “So to me, February is just a reminder to think throughout the year about the contributions that people from the African diaspora have made.”
Events for Black History Month
On Feb. 1, Caruso hosted Sanford Williams, deputy managing director at the Federal Communications Commission, as part of the Dean’s Speaker Series, said Chalak Richards, dean of Students, Diversity and Belonging at Caruso. Williams spoke on the intersection of diversity, accessibility and the digital age.
On Feb. 20, Caruso will host a panel of Black judges, who are alumni of the law school, Richards said. Caruso will also show “Unspoken,” a documentary about the relationship between Christianity and Africa, on Feb. 28, in SR-1. Finally, while not an official part of Black History Month, Caruso will host its third Belonging Awards on Feb. 24, to celebrate “diversity and belonging at all levels.”
“What we want is for people, whether they identify as Black or not, or wherever across the African Diaspora they may come from, we recognize that we all have more to learn,” Richards said. “We have more to learn about each other; we have more to learn about ourselves and our identities and experiences.”
RJ Wicks, junior and social chair for BSA, said one event BSA has solidified is the trivia night at Seaside Residence Hall on Feb. 15, in a collaboration with Housing and Residence Life.
Sophomore Nicole Fashaw, BSA social chair, said BSA is working with the Student Programming Board to host a talent show. This is in addition to the collaboration with HRL.
“I’m hoping that we can have some conversations that are hard to have,” said Naya Edwards, senior and BSA president. “And I’m hoping that we can have a good time in between those conversations. And I’m hoping to get more people who are non-Black students, or faculty [and] staff involved so that they could continue to support us even after February.”
How Pepperdine Can Support Black Students
The best way for students to support Black peers on campus, Wicks said, is educating themselves and being aware of the different issues that affect Black students.
“There are a lot of times [where] issues that happen within the Black community can be just looked over, which for many African Americans can be frustrating,” Wicks said. “Especially when we see our culture being so popularized by pop culture. I mean, our music, our dance moves, our vernacular, how we speak, how we dress, so many aspects of Black culture.”
Richards said not to limit support to only February.
“[I want to be sure] that whoever is partnering with us is partnering because they want to be involved and they want to help educate, and that doesn’t appear to be performative because it is Black History Month, but we’re Black all the rest of the months of the year,” Edwards said.
For any nationally recognized month, Richards said, there is concern that care will stop after that month.
Fashaw said one way for faculty to support Black students is calling them by name. For Pepperdine as a whole, Fashaw said she would like to see a community-wide event for Black History Month.
“Making it a point to make sure that they feel like they do belong there,” Fashaw said.
“There are Black people in all the fields that we study, and now there’s Black people who were excellent in a lot of the things that we talked about,” Edwards said.
From the University, Edwards said she would like to see more support, such as educational resources and promotion on Instagram all year.
To commemorate Black History Month, the Seaver College will hold a presentation in Payson Library’s Surfboard Room on Feb. 21, with host Ronald McCurdy, University of Southern California music professor, called “Disrupting Racism Through The Lens of the Arts,” according to Pepperdine’s Celebrating Black History Month website.
It is also important to recognize not all people need the same thing, Smith said.
Smith said to get to know people for their idiosyncrasies, personalities, commonalities, distinctions and gifts.
“There’s no monolithic Black student,” Smith said. “There are Black students that are biracial, that are from different countries, that are from different socioeconomic statuses.”
Theme of Resistance
This year, the theme of Black History Month is resistance, according to the Association for the Study of African American Life and History.
For Caruso, Richards said the school wants to show resistance can be in the form of joy, celebration, education and spirituality.
“We also believe that coming together and defying the idea that in order to be excellent, we have to be separate, which is why we want to highlight with our judges,” Richards said.
Wicks said when he hears the term resistance, he thinks of persistence.
“The people in my culture have pretty much showcased through slavery, through Jim Crow, through the police brutality and so many other things that we just keep seeing thrown at us, this is something that doesn’t tear us down and that we continue to fight and just continue to excel in everything that we do in the U.S.,” Wicks said.
Meaning of Black History Month
For Wicks, Black History Month is not just a month of education but also a month of celebrating the accomplishments of Black individuals, from dancers to artists to inventors and beyond.
“Taking the time to celebrate all the things that we have accomplished and appreciate the things that not only people that we hear of like MLK, Malcolm X, [did],” Wicks said. “But also taking the time to think about the people in my own family, who are just people you don’t really necessarily think about when you think of Black history.”
Wicks said it’s important to commemorate Black history — throughout the year — because history is often taught from a westernized point of view.
“It’s important because it’s something that can be so easily glazed over,” Wicks said. “And if we don’t have any time to really acknowledge it, it can just be erased from our history, and that’s something that of course we don’t want.”
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