UNI celebrates Black History Month

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  • Throughout February, the Black Student Union is holding events in honor of Black History Month.

  • The Black Student Union (BSU) will be organizing events in honor of Black History Month, including the Tunnel of Oppression, a staple event at UNI.

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Those who were in the Maucker Union around noon on Thursday, Feb. 1, witnessed Black Student Union (BSU) member Nikia Watson reciting an original poem about black oppression in America. Over a megaphone, Watson cited police brutality, mass incarceration and cultural appropriation.

Meanwhile, other BSU members carried signs around the Union with messages such as, “PSA: Talking proper is not a white thing” and “‘You’re pretty for a black girl’ is not a compliment.” This was the Black History Month kickoff at UNI.

“This whole month we can celebrate who we are, celebrate things that we have done,” said Yakira Sanders, a junior studying social work and current BSU president. “We can celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks — the people that did what they did many years ago, so that we can be where we are today.”

Black History Month will also be celebrated on campus by the African Union (AU), which is a student organization that celebrates and teaches African heritage.

“I know that, as an African, when the Civil Rights Movement was going on here in America, African leaders were rooting for African Americans,” said Tulia Mulibinge, who is the AU president.

Originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mulibinge is a senior studying elementary education and TESOL.

“It’s very important for me, because I know Pan-Africanists who crossed the border to come here and help,” Mulibinge said. “At first, I used to see it as an African-American celebration, but now I see it as a celebration for all black people around the world, because it was something that they all came together to fight for.”

There are events happening all month to celebrate, starting with the Night at the Apollo, which was held this past Saturday, Feb. 2, in Lang Auditorium. The event was a talent show, inspired by Steve Harvey’s “Showtime at the Apollo.”

“The Center for Multicultural Education wanted to do something different this year where all black students on campus came together, and it would be a celebration of all blackness — not just American blackness, but Caribbean blackness and African blackness,” Mulibinge said.

On Saturday, the Afrobeat Dance Party was held at the Wesley Foundation. According to Mulibinge, Afrobeat is a new and popular genre of music from Africa that combines West African music and hip-hop.

On Feb. 5 at 6 p.m., BSU and AU are coming together for the Same, Same Different panel, held in the Maucker Union Coffeehouse. This event brings representatives from both organizations to explain the differences between African and African-American culture.

“We are very different, because we have been stripped of each other. We were once one, and we got pulled apart, and now there’s this rift between the two groups,” Mulibinge explained. “So, what the Same, Same, Different panel discussion is about to bring is a place where Africans can sit down and say what is the rift? What is it about? How did it come about? [. . .] And how we can come to a solution and solve it?”

Black Jeopardy will be held on Feb. 7 in Schindler 220 at 6 p.m. The game will test participants’ knowledge on African-American history. Topics will include notable African-American marches, protests and inventions.

On Feb. 20, BSU will be providing transportation and 30 free tickets to a viewing of “Black Panther” at the Marcus College Square Cinema. According to Sanders, this event is important because it features a black protagonist — a novelty in modern American films.

The Tunnel of Oppression is a staple event at UNI during Black History Month. It will be held on Feb. 21 at 6 p.m. in Lang Hall.

Attendees will be led by a tour guide through the basement classrooms, explaining the various types of oppression African Americans have dealt with throughout history.

“It’s a perspective type of thing,” Sanders said about the Tunnel of Oppression event. “You can go and walk a mile in our shoes basically.”

Rooms will feature a variety of categories from micro-aggressions to black hair to colorism.

The Poetry Slam will also be held in Lang on Feb. 23 at 6 p.m. Poets Words and Chillin will kick off the evening with their own poetry before ushering in the open mic portion of the night.

On Feb. 25, the public is welcomed to the Soul Food Dinner at the Wesley Foundation.

“Soul food is a big part of black community and black culture, as well,” Sanders said. “We love to eat food that makes us happy. We call it soul food because it feeds our souls.”

“You Good?” will be held on Feb. 27 at 6 p.m. in the Georgian Lounge in the Commons. This will be an interactive discussion on sexual assault in the black community, in collaboration with Amani Community Services, of Waterloo.

Jason Sole will be coming to Rod Library on Feb. 28 to talk about the challenges of being a black male in America and his journey from prison to a career as an assistant professor and national speaker.

Some of the month’s other events include a 70’s-themed Skate Party, a Sip and Paint and a Lip Sync Battle.

Lastly, the Toast for Change: Black Gala will occur in the Commons Ballroom at 7 p.m. on March 3. This event is a way for BSU to thank their supporters and sponsors through a dinner.

Mulibinge encourages all UNI students to attend all these events.

“These events aren’t for the black community. They’re for the white community, so that we can learn together,” Mulibinge said. “We feel that college is the place of knowledge, and you don’t only get that from the classroom. You learn that through the events you go to.”