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From discussions to a jam session, campus groups plan virtual Black History Month celebrations

Campus groups and organizations are making plans to commemorate Black History Month with virtual events. 

The arrival of February marks the beginning of Black History Month. Typically, Black student organizations at Duke have used this time to hold musical performances, put on plays and invite speakers to campus. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, however, student groups have had to find new ways to connect the community through virtual events. 

According to Cartier Robinson, co-president of the Black Student Alliance, BSA plays an important role as an advocate for students, staff and faculty, holding community events and bringing speakers to campus. Robinson, a senior, wrote in an email that these expectations have not changed in spite of the difficulties presented by the coronavirus pandemic. 

“This month, we are working to find ways to bring our community together as well as empower them,” Robinson wrote. “We will be co-hosting a Black Love event with UNC Chapel Hill Black Student Movement and other Black Student Unions across the state of North Carolina.”

The Black Love event will take place Feb. 11. Cartier added that BSA will have a speed dating event with Mi Gente using the “Glimpse” social platform, and plans to hold a roundtable discussion with Duke Neurocare on Black mental health. 

“We are also hoping to help host a conversation on how to keep the social justice movement alive,” Robinson wrote.

While members of the Duke Anti-Racism Book Club usually read and discuss a work by an author of color each month, President Sydney McKinney, a senior, is excited about three new events that her organization will be holding over the next few weeks in place of their usual meetings. 

“There is no way we can conflate black history into one book and discussion, so three mini events seemed like a better way to honor as many black stories as possible,” McKinney wrote in an email. “The three mini events will include a study/jam session with music by black artists, a Ted Talk viewing and discussion, and a trivia night that focuses on modern black history.”

Duke’s Mary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture has already begun a packed schedule of workshops, plays, dinners and more. The Center’s program corresponds with their 2021 Black History Month theme, “The Black Family: Representation, Identity and Diversity.” 

From workshops to talks to trivia, events revolve around themes such as mental health and communication. More information about these events, as well as the program itself, is available on the Center’s website

The aspirations of these student groups and organizations remain relevant beyond Black History Month. According to the Mary Lou Williams Center website, the Center is “living Black history every day” while “exploring the many different routes of the African diaspora.”

Robinson wrote that BSA is an organization “formed to improve the conditions of [the] Black community at Duke University.”

“A part of improving the conditions is working to establish an enlightened and open-minded relationship between Duke’s Black community and the general Duke community,” he wrote. “We are committed to eliminating social barriers that face both the Duke and Durham community.”

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