CSU celebrates Black History
The celebration of Black History in America has changed drastically over the past century. In 1926, only half a century after the 13th Amendment abolished U.S. slavery, Dr. Carter G. Woodson coined the second week of February as Negro History Week. The week lines up with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass—one a presidential abolitionist activist, the other an escaped slave. Not even 50 years ago, President Gerald Ford extended Black recognition to the entire month of February in 1976, encouraging the public to “honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.” Every president thereafter, some more than others, has upheld the celebration of Black History Month as a catalyst to acknowledge the struggles and achievements that African Americans have faced throughout history.
Black History Month is a time to reflect on the struggles of the past and present. In Charleston, the city’s greatest attributes stem from its cultural celebrations and the pieces of Black History that still stand today. According to Tim Grant, assistant dean of student organizations and the university’s diversity officer, studying the history of African American progression and achievement helps shape a better tomorrow.
“CSU has a diverse community of 34.1% people of color, and 20% of that is African American,” said Grant. “[The Diversity Council] makes sure we are a culturally aware campus.”
CSU’s Diversity Council includes a variety of faculty, staff, and students who have shown leadership and passion for the diversity efforts on campus. They work together in planning events to ensure that the university does everything it can to make all students feel included and celebrated while supporting their college success. The Council celebrates its students through sponsoring various events and movements. The Cultural Diversity Committee is under the umbrella of the Council and is composed of faculty and staff committed to implement programs that highlight minority cultures on campus.
“The Cultural Diversity Committee does a great job of celebrating the culture of our students,” said Grant. In addition to Black History Month, CSU also celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month and Women’s History Month. As partners of the Black History Intercollegiate Consortium, Charleston Southern also partners with other universities each January to honor Martin Luther King Jr.
From February 1 – 5, the Diversity Council is hosting a Black History Month Walk-Thru. The exhibit’s purpose is to excite the campus about cultural awareness, featuring a real-life walk through of Black History. Politicians such as former President Barack Obama and new Vice President Kamala Harris will be on display, sharing their impact on the culture and the changes they have made in the world. The exhibit will also include the iron work of Charleston’s own Phillip Simmons, as well as the history of sweetgrass basketmaking. The event will be in the new student center conference room, formerly the President’s Dining Room, available for all students and staff to enjoy from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. all week long.
Besides focusing on Black History, CSU’s Diversity Council also encourages students to focus on how they can honor Black futures. The Council recently hosted a diversity dinner table talk with the athletic department to gather ideas on how to make students feel more welcome and appreciated.
In light of recent events in the United States, Grant said the university has made a point to show support for the Black community on campus and off by sharing the message of “We choose love” under the biblical directive by Jesus himself in Matthew 22:39.
“CSU does not tolerate racism or violence of any kind. We love our neighbors as ourselves and we promote unity on this campus,” Grant added.
As diversity officer, Grant encourages students to let him know of any problems or recommend any ideas they have to further spread cultural awareness and positivity.
“It’s not a difference between white and black; it’s about coming together from all backgrounds, cultures, ages, and experiences to learn and celebrate differences rather than pretending they aren’t there,” Grant said. “We’ve come a long way in the almost four years that I’ve been the diversity officer, but we still have a way to go.”
Black History is more than simply recognizing the past. While it is important to be aware of the long and painful African American experience over the last 400 years, it should also be an ongoing celebration of the triumphs. Black History Month at Charleston Southern University is all about accepting and appreciating different cultures. God calls His people to gather “a great multitude which no one could number, all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb…” (Rev 7:9).
Emma Slaven is a senior English writing major and an intern for Marketing & Communication.