It's February! As we know, February is Black History Month, which presents us with the opportunity not only to highlight the achievements of African Americans but also reflect on our collective history and how we can continue to grow as a nation. Black History Month is an annual celebration of achievements and a time for recognizing the central role of African Americans in United States history.
Since 1976, the our nation has aimed to recognize and appreciate black culture and its impact on society throughout the month of February. Carter G. Woodson (1875-1950) was an African-American activist who first created a "Negro History Week" before Black History Month existed. Because of his outstanding achievements and drive to make a statement for the black community, he is known as the father of Black History Month.
The social media team reached out to Meghan Esperance '18, co-president of UNH's Black Student Union (BSU), to hear about the organization and some events that will be held during the month.
Q&A with Meghan Esperance '18
UNH Tales: How important is Black History Month to BSU?
Esperance: Black History Month is extremely important to BSU, especially because of everything that it represents. It is a month that highlights black contributions in America and throughout the world in academics, philanthropy, business, nonprofits and more. Through educational events and guest speakers, we have a chance to learn black history and achievements, which are not reflected in the textbooks. BSU utilizes Black History Month to honor these unseen figures for their excellence, and they deserve a month of dedication for all their talent.
UNH Tales: How has joining BSU affected your UNH experience and what are some of the things you have learned while being a part of BSU?
Esperance: I think it changed my experience completely. Coming into college I didn't feel connected to the campus and I wasn't involved in any diversity orgs. I think it changed the friendships I built and education I received. That helped me understand the social world — conversations on topics such as intersectionality and oppression. I learned more about my own blackness and how to own my identity. It taught me how to navigate my way as a person of color on a predominantly white campus and how to be an advocate. I have built a lot of my character and grown on an individual level.
UNH Tales: What does BSU offer to the community here at UNH?
Esperance: The two main things we offer are education and culture. Education about blackness and insight into what black culture is and how multifaceted it is. People usually assume African American is the politically correct term and it is interchangeable with "black." Although, in reality, anyone with a darker skin tone could identify as black because their experiences are very different from lighter skin folks in their race. This is why the term "black" is not only limited to African Americans. We also have had resident activists on campus recently, and it is great to have such strong black women here since they both have very different styles of leading but are very successful in their own way. I and many others here learned so much from them.
UNH Tales: What type of events do you have planned for Black History Month?
Esperance: We usually do something for the entire month. This month's theme is "black excellence." Last week we had a conversation on Harlem renaissance, and our upcoming events include Roll Bounce and STEM Professional. Roll Bounce is our annual rollerskating event in the Granite State Room with black America culture, and the theme is 70s. STEM Professional is a collaboration with the National Society of Black Engineer's chapter at UNH to discuss black professionals who have excelled in STEM. Both the events are free to students and they have free food. More information can be found on Wildcat Link if anyone wants to attend.
UNH Tales: If a student were to join BSU, what could they expect?
Esperance: They should expect a community that is fun. It's black students being unapologetically black. It is a space for aspiring allies to come and learn about the issues surrounding the African American community.
UNH Tales: How does BSU contribute to Diversity Support Coalition?
Esperance: We contribute by being allies to others and the identities that they bare. We value intersectionality and contribute by supporting each other in our educational programs or events. We have formed a very close community.
UNH Tales: Why should students join BSU?
Esperance: Students should join because we are a lot of fun and we offer a lot to learn. We welcome everybody and help teach them what it means to be black and how they impact the community. If students have an interest in becoming culturally competent and care about social justice, BSU is for you.