Black History Month Outcomes

Ana Ozuna, Assistant Professor
Humanities Department

Last semester, the Black Studies and Media Design Programs created a social justice coalition called Hostos Hands Up with the objective of providing the Hostos community with a platform to respond to the unjust police practices against Black men and women. On December 13, 2014, over 75 Hostos students and faculty participated in Millions March NYC with the coordination of Hostos Hands Up. Prior to the March, students and faculty prepared for this elating experience by reproducing 100 protest signs, designed by Professor Sarah Sandman. Several of the original signs are currently in display as part of the “Respond” exhibition at the Smack Mellon Art Gallery in Brooklyn.

The Black Studies Unit planned the 2015 Black History Month program with the objective of continuing the work of Hostos Hands Up while reflecting the praxis of Afrocentricity and the core principles of Black Studies. We commenced the Black History Month program with a lecture by Dr. Muhammad, who delineated the history of racist policing and unfair treatment of African Americans based on his recent publication “The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime and the Making of Modern America”, required reading this semester in BLS 150: Ethnicity, Health and Illness course. In the following presentation, Dr. Williams presented the zeitgeist of the contemporary struggle for social justice with an overview of the emancipatory knowledge needed to unleash the irresistible forces of liberation. As the Black Lives Matter movement grows exponentially, Dr. Williams shows that this time has come.

The “Know Your Rights” workshop provided participants with a breakdown of their legal rights when interacting with law enforcement officials. Naima Sakande, an Investigator and Kamau Butcher, a Policy Organizer, discussed the rights vs. the reality when stopped by police and explored topics such as reasonable suspicion, probable cause, consent, and arrest.

“The Ocha People: The Emancipatory Knowledge of Afro-Cuban Culture” lecture offered participants an overview of the origins of Lukumí traditions throughout the Americas. Oba Shango Wole explained how Africans preserved their spiritual practices and traditions through slavery and secretly passed the torch through the ages to our generation.

We held our penultimate event yesterday at the Atrium that featured interactive Afro-Brazilian martial arts performance. Over 40 students, faculty and staff enjoyed the presentation of Capoeira acrobatic moves, Brazilian songs and instruments, the basic Capoeira movement lesson and the demonstration of maculele, a dynamic stick dance. Our program featured six events, and will close with an Egyptian Yoga class taught by Ghylian Bell, the founder of a Harlem base non-profit organization, Urban Yoga Foundation. Participants will embody ancient rituals to restore body, mind, and spirit.

We are excited to note that Dr. Muhammad’s participation was our top achievement since it will foster future collaboration and intellectual exchange with the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. Secondly, all of our programs were well-attended and prompted on-going discussion and intellectual exchange. Lastly, I am delighted to share that throughout the month, students, faculty and staff have expressed their satisfaction with the Black History Month events due to their Afrocentric focus and contemporary relevance.

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