Bulletin News

SUNY Cortland celebrates Black History Month


It’s been stated that Black History Month does not offer enough time for people to consider the contributions of Black people to America. And that may be especially true now, after a year when acts of police violence against persons of color pushed the Black Lives Matter movement into mainstream public discussion.

But that did not dissuade SUNY Cortland’s Africana Studies Department from putting together a full calendar of Black History Month events this February, which explore many of the controversial topics that dominated conversations last year.

“In these times of divisiveness in our country, the global response to the knee-lynching of George Floyd, cancel cultures, questions pertaining to moral reckoning, and the COVID-19 global pandemic, we bring the Cortland community together for critical but hope-affirming and uplifting presentations to celebrate the culture, achievements, resistance, and resiliency of the Black community,” said the series organizer, Seth Asumah.

Afro Essence is a series of talent show/open mic events sponsored by the club Know Your Roots. Based on the Harlem Renaissance era, the events bring a cultural influence representing music, Latinx, poetry and art appreciation from all people of color.

Asumah, a SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor who chairs the Africana Studies Department, noted SUNY Cortland has celebrated Black History Month with critical scholarship, performances and art for more than a quarter of a century.

“Black history is America’s history, for it chronicles our struggles and records of human achievements in humanizing the world and the global human condition,” he said.

All Black History Month events are free to attend and open to the public. Due to safety concerns in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, all events will be conducted virtually. Visit the Black History Month website — cortland.edu/bhm — for a quick reference on upcoming events.

Campus community members have an added opportunity to immerse themselves in Black history and culture throughout the month by participating in the interactive “21-Day Challenge” throughout the rest of February. Every day of the challenge has a theme and lists several options for reading, listening or watching. Individuals may choose at least one activity per day and are welcome to explore more.

The multimedia subcommittee of SUNY Cortland’s Anti-Racism Taskforce created the webpage, where a link called Cortland.edu/21day gives students, faculty and staff a chance to track their participation, reflect on their daily activities and engage in discussion with others.

“The Challenge was created as a way to understand issues of power, privilege, oppression, equity and social justice,” said committee member Paul van der Veur, professor and chair of Communication and Media Studies. “The goal is for participants to explore a daily activity and over the course of the 21 days to learn and, ultimately, be empowered to recognize and actively take a stand against racism.”

Black History Month events continue, including:

SUNY Cortland’s Africana Studies Department has put together a full calendar of Black History Month events.

Tuesday, Feb. 23: The Black Student Union (BSU) will host “Understanding and Advocating for Racial Justice for Everyone,” a WebEx event from 3 to 5 p.m. Participants can learn how to better understand racial injustice and how to be better allies and advocates to people of color. Register and then the Webex link will be sent to you. The learning objectives are for members of the campus community to spend time examining their own racialized identities and experiences, to be able to identify their triggers and challenges around issues of race and racism, to accumulate tools that better prepare everyone to engage others in conversations about race and racism, and to be more willing and able to identify, interrupt, and dialogue on issues of racism and racialized bias. Contact multicultural.life@cortland.edu.

Wednesday, Feb. 24: Black student union representatives from Cortland, Oneonta and Binghamton will discuss “Convergence of the BSUs: Discussing PWI Cultures from the Perspective of Black Students” at 6 p.m. via Webex using the Webex number 132 172 8452 using the password uYx6eAWYs84. Contact Shaneya Simmelkjaer, Black Student Union president.

Thursday, Feb. 25: Representatives of Cortland’s Black Student Union and Know Your Roots - Africana Studies Association (KYR-ASA) will address “Afro-Essence” from 7 to 8:30 p.m. via Webex. The presidents of both groups, Shaneya Simmelkjaer and Alfred Robertson respectively, will speak. A Webex link to attend the event will be provided soon. Contact Shaneya Simmelkjaer.

Friday, Feb. 26: Two faculty members and a student will offer an “Afro-Fusion Dance Workshop” at 5 p.m. via Zoom. The presenters will be Nikolay Karkov, an associate professor of philosophy, Avanti Mukherjee, an assistant professor of economics, and Maria Klara Vantura, student. At the time of the demonstration, first join the Zoom meeting and then enter the meeting I.D. number, 844 2721 0495 and the passcode, 082674. Contact Shaneya Simmelkjaer, Black Student Union president.

Black History Month sponsors include the university President’s Office, Institutional Equity and Inclusion Office, Political Science Department, School of Arts and Sciences, Africana Studies Department, Performing Arts, SUNY Cortland Alumni Association, Multicultural Life and Diversity Office, Disability Resources, Campus Artists and Lecture Series, Student Government Association, Know Your Roots-Africana Studies Association, SUNY Cortland Campus Activities, Career Services, Black Student Union, Cortland NAACP and Pan African Student Association.

For more information, contact Asumah at 607-753-2064.