Carline Jean / South Florida Sun Sentinel
Black History Month celebrations continue at Mesa, despite persistent remote learning conditions, via online formats such as Zoom and discussion-based panels on Padlet.
While in years past the celebrations and learning seminars have been held in person, this year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Black History Month events are being pushed to a strictly online format. However, as organizers have announced, this will not act as a defining constraint to the experience of students or educators.
“One of the things we do as a department is come together to decide what kinds of events and activities we want to host,” Thekima Mayasa, the Chair of the Mesa Black Studies Department, said. “We like the idea that we are not just doing it ourselves but we’re doing it in a community.”
Traditionally held in the month of February, Black History Month was originally “Negro History Week,” after the Black scholar and historian Carter G. Woodson announced a need for the celebration of the history of Black individuals in America.
“As a scholar, he felt it was necessary not only for African Americans but for American society as a whole, to get a new view of the African contribution to the American experience,” Mayasa said.
Among the several events Mesa is hosting, Mayasa provided a special endorsement for the film premiere “Agents of Change” on Feb. 17, “Ask Your Mama” The Langston Hughes Project event on Feb. 20, “The Black Church: This is Our Story” a two-part PBS documentary premiere on Feb. 24, as well as “Eye on Black Studies,” a seminar/discussion focusing on a reflection of the legacy of the discipline of Black Studies.
Despite apparent favoritism, Mayasa was adamant in stressing that this year all of the celebrations are important.
“I would say all of the events are special…and the reason I say that is because this the first time that — because of the pandemic situation — we have a full calendar [of events] from one department,” Mayasa said, speaking to the fact that the Black Studies Department alone is organizing this year’s celebration.
Since it is customary to celebrate a theme for Black History Month, this year’s theme, according to the Association for the Study of African American History and Life (ASALH), is “the Black family.”
“The Black Family theme offers a window onto the African American experience over the generations,” according to the ASALH, “because family-oriented examples, stories, images, and concepts have long inspired and mobilized African Americans in individual and collective efforts…in their quest for racial equality and social justice.”
“Through the library…we have put together an ‘Empowering the Black Family’ resource. And basically what we will be talking about is not just about the Black family, but different aspects of the Black family that have influenced America overtime,” Mayasa said.
Along with the recent social unrest following a contentious election, as well as the protests against police brutality and systemic racism last spring, Mayasa stressed the importance of not just a celebration of Black history this month alone, but of the imperative to continue to strive for change and justice year-round.
“Black History Month is 365 days a year,” she said. “We really want this to be something that is not just of the moment, but something that is lifelong learning.”
Events and information can be accessed through the Black Studies module on the Mesa website.