by Catherine Brewer ’20
February is Black History Month, and Providence College has only just begun the wide variety of student and staff organized commemorations on campus. At 7 p.m. on Wednesday, February 7, the Providence College African-American Society, fondly called Afro Am, hosted the second major event of the month: the annual Black Exposition. The focus for this year’s celebration was the Black Panthers, a militant black rights political organization that was established in 1966. The Black Expo was held in Moore Hall and featured a trivia raffle, as well as refreshments provided by Jersey Mike’s.
“The Black Panthers haven’t been discussed enough, but they were a central part of the Black Rights Movement,” explained event coordinator Acklynn Byamugisha ’20. While Byamugisha currently serves as Afro-Am secretary, she has already been elected as next year’s president. According to Byamugisha, the Afro Am wanted to showcase influential Black Panther figures to provide an inside look at the diversity within the community in order to help end the stigma that the Black Panthers were a purely violent group.
Byamugisha explained that one key aspect of this diversity is the difference in the discrimination that black men and women have faced, adding that it was unique for the group to work through the gender divide to achieve common goals. “Black women were at the very bottom,” Byamugisha firmly stated. She described how in the Black Panther Party, women were able to have their voices heard more easily through the partnership with their male counterparts. Byamugisha added, “It’s time we show a different light of the Black Panthers.”
The choice to hold the event in Moore Hall was strategic, as Byamugisha explained that while it could have been successful in other campus locations, Moore Hall carries the newly cultivated sentiment of students uniting and fighting for a more inclusive campus. “However, we still need to get people more involved in these events,” said Byamugisha. Throughout Black History Month, she recommends attending the NAACP Black History Mobile Museum from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. in Slavin 112 and ’64 Hall on Feb. 14.
The performance portion of the event was kicked off by Chalayna Smart ’18 of Believers of Word (BOW). Smart delivered an original poem in her trademark style, closing with a powerful message that is central to Black History Month: “Black culture lives on.” After her reading, she elaborated on her motivation to be involved in the event, stating, “I wanted to speak here because while they are often ridiculed, I admire the Black Panthers.” Smart explained that the display of the movement gave her hope and demonstrated that “militant isn’t always violent.”
Kristen Rezuke ’18, a guest at the event, explained why it is critical for us to commemorate the Black Panthers today. “It is important to understand the true purpose of the Black Panther Party, especially in a time where police brutality and the murders of young black men are at the forefront of our minds.”
The next PC sponsored Black History Month event will be the Marshall Movie Screening and Discussion on Feb. 8. Office of Student Activities and Cultural Programing will host the event in the Moore 125 Lounge at 4 p.m.