WSU's Black History Month kicks off with a Blast

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(Photo by Kaitlyn Johnson) A member of Black Scholars United talks with a passing student about Black History Month.

Weber State University’s Black Scholars United organization kicked off Black History Month with its second annual Blast on Monday.

Carey Francis, BSU adviser and 2012 WSU alumna, bounced from booth to booth in the Shepherd Union Atrium to give every business that came a chance to tell the crowd what they had to offer at their booths over the microphone. Between each two booths she sang, danced and just got down on the dance floor with anyone who would join her.

“The event is turning out pretty good,” Francis said. “It’s starting off slow, but this is new. It’s been really fun, because I get to run around and mess with folks, and I’ve been putting people on Front Street, as I call it. I have singled out the football players and basketball players and talked to them, asking them about Black History Month, and it’s been a very interesting morning.”

Jeff Henry, African-American students senator and vice chair of the student senate, said his goals and hopes with doing the Blast is to “increase awareness of Black History Month and to project a positive black image to the community, to Weber State as a whole, to the community, to everyone.”

With the community getting involved, the Blast opened up as a bigger event than the year before, which has produced a lot more participation. Henry said he believes people are starting to really want to be a part of it.

“My hopes is for everybody to come to the same page in terms of . . . that it doesn’t matter if you’re African-American, Hispanic, Polynesian, just that we all should come together and work as one, towards understanding that we need to treat each other more like human beings than segmented groups,” Henry said, “to get everyone involved with the education and understanding of different cultures, so that we all can move within the system here and achieve the same goals.”

Businesses and organizations such as the American Red Cross, Sam’s Club, Latinos in Action, the Northern Utah Coalition Inc., and M & H Beauty Salon and Supply offered educational information and items for sale. Goldenwest Credit Union was even giving away money to students interested in opening up bank accounts.

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(Photo by Kaitlyn Johnson) Students sold authentic African jewelry from Mozambique and Southern Africa, all handmade and handcrafted, at Monday’s Blast event.

The WSU Center for Diversity and Unity was there to inform students about its upcoming events for Black History Month, including “Internship Panel: Intern Today, Lead Tomorrow” on Feb. 5, “Black Against Empire” on Feb. 10, “Langston Hughes: Poet, Writer, Storyteller — A Book Discussion with Dr. Michael Wutz” on Feb. 13, and the free and confidential rapid HIV/AIDS testing offered on Feb. 13.

Students from the Mozambique Women’s Center Project offered authentic jewelry for purchase and performed a choreographed dance honoring the people of Mozambique.

Black History Month originated from “Negro History Week,” established by Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History. They chose the second week of February because it marked the birthday of Abraham Lincoln and Fredrick Douglass.

The week expanded to Black History Month in 1970 and was hosted at Kent State University. In 1976 the U.S. government and President Gerald Ford officially recognized Black History Month as a part of the United States Bicentennial. Ford urged Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”

WSU criminal justice senior and BSU president Niesha Miller said BSU was founded in 1968 on the WSU campus, and that she is proud to be a part of something that continues to unite students and create opportunity.

“We pretty much bring awareness and diversity to the campus to help make people aware that we (the black community) do exist on this campus in a predominantly white university,” Miller said. “We thrive to help students succeed and earn a degree from Weber State by helping and creating a unified environment through diversity, and say that you can come join us and celebrate with us.”

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(Photo by Tony Post) Board of Regents member Pastor France Davis speaks with WSU African-American students senator Jeff Henry on the importance of Black History Month.

Miller said it is important to be aware of history in any form and that everyone should be knowledgeable about where everyone comes from and the different cultures.

“We are going to have the Blast again next year, and it’s going to be even bigger than this year,” Henry said. “My hope is that it’s something that continues at Weber State even long after I graduate.”