A quote by Maya Angelou appears on a wall in the Intercultural Center beside a poster displaying the events calendar for Black History Month at Wake Forest for February 2024.
A quote by Maya Angelou appears on a wall in the Intercultural Center beside a poster displaying the events calendar for Black History Month at Wake Forest for February 2024.
Shaila Prasad

A preview of Black History Month at Wake Forest

Campus organizations collaborate to host a variety of events for students

Thursday, Feb. 1 marked the first day of Black History Month, with a global focus in 2024 on “African Americans and the Arts.” Although the theme isn’t the basis of celebration at Wake Forest, this month students will have the opportunity to attend multiple events hosted by a range of on-campus organizations. 

Black History Month at Wake Forest

“There is such a rich history of resilience and perseverance at Wake Forest,” Assistant Director of the Wake Forest Intercultural Center Jalen Shell told the Old Gold & Black via email. “It is important that we continuously find ways to celebrate the accomplishments of those who fought through so much resistance to achieve [being] here.”

Black History Month is an annual celebration that acknowledges the contributions of African Americans in American history. Although it was officially recognized in 1976 by U.S. President Gerald Ford, the second week of February was known informally by the Black American community as a celebration of their culture and achievements. This month of celebration has now been adopted by countries worldwide.

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Janeel Black, president of the Black Student Association (BSA), explained that although the Black experience is celebrated year-round, the importance of Black History Month at Wake Forest serves as a call to action addressing ongoing racial injustice.

In the culture of Wake Forest, there can be a tendency for introspection and the individual self,” Black said. “But by engaging in Black History Month events, students are compelled to consider perspectives beyond their own, stepping into spaces they may have never explored otherwise.”

Many Wake Forest organizations will hold events, such as the Intercultural Center, the BSA and the African and Caribbean Student Association (AfriCaSa), in collaboration with other on-campus organizations including the LGBTQ+ Center and Student Union. The Intercultural Center calendar is linked here.

Behind the scenes

With a variety of events to come, AfriCaSa Vice President Fatou Diallo explained the work that goes into planning Black History Month programs.

The programming of events takes a lot of hard work and dedication, from event planning meetings with the Office of Student Engagement to fostering relationships and collaborating with other organizations and departments on campus,” Diallo said. 

Part of this preparation includes research on African and Caribbean cultures to ensure intentional, thoughtful experiences for minority students on campus.

According to Black, a lot of planning begins in late October — intending to have the programs together by the end of January. Amidst all this, Black also emphasized the collaborative process.

“Whether between the [executive] board or other offices and organizations that we would like to partner with […], the work does not solely fall on one person because we work as a team,” Black said. 

Shell also appreciated the willingness of on-campus partners to collaborate across different heritage months and expressed appreciation for the impact of student organizations.

[Student organizations] are the reason we are here and we want to create with them in mind to aid in their learning, experiences and sharing of those experiences to the broader campus community,” Shell said.

As it reaches the end of the first week of February, there are multiple opportunities for Wake Forest students to educate themselves and get involved. Here are a few of the upcoming events.

Some past and upcoming events

On Jan. 30, the BSA took students to watch “Origin” at A/perture Cinema. This experience was in partnership with the Chris Paul Foundation and allowed students free transportation to view a movie that is meaningful to Black history.

This past weekend, on Feb. 3, there was a Black Professionals Forum in Farrell Hall. What started with an informal brunch, allowing students to interact with Wake Forest Black alumni, transitioned into a panel discussion. Students were able to begin to gain an understanding of what it’s like to be Black in the professional spaces the alumni represented.

This Saturday, Feb. 10, students can join BSA for “Souper Saturday.” Here, the organization will take participants to the Bethesda Center for the Homeless and give back to the community.

In Benson 346 on Feb. 13, the Intercultural Center is hosting an event called “Black Love: Queering Intimacy in Popular Culture.” It will examine representations of Black queer intimacy and explore dialogue about the importance of representation.

Also in Benson 346, on Feb. 15, there will be the Black Abroad event. This will provide students a safe space to convey and hear the experiences of Black students abroad.

Finally, a Black-owned business market will be open to students in the main lobby of Farrell Hall on Feb. 21. Here, local businesses will be able to connect with the Wake Forest community

The value in showing up

Both Black and Diallo stressed the difference between speaking about Black History Month and actively participating.

The value of ‘showing up’ is more essential than people might think […],” Diallo said. “But, sometimes showing up isn’t enough. Yes, be present, but also make sure your presence is known, and your voice is heard.”

To Black, the events on campus this month are an opportunity for Wake Forest students to honor Black contributions and achievements. 

Students participating in our events provide an opportunity to learn about and celebrate Black history, culture, and heritage,” Black said. “As students, being present shows that you are willing to be the change you want to see.”

According to Shell, the meaning of involvement is the opportunity to share experiences of culture, create a more powerful community of belonging and build diversity of thought. Students can get involved with multicultural efforts on campus through multiple platforms. The Intercultural Center has become home for many students on campus and is open to any and all. 

“While Black History Month is [only] celebrated in February, the contributions of Black people to [the] university as we know it should be celebrated daily,” Shell said.

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