The month of February is dedicated to celebrating Black History; at Point Loma Nazarene University’s campus students were invited by the Black Student Union (BSU) to attend a panel on Feb. 16 where students shared their thoughts about Black History Month and the Black experience.
Amen Etefa, first-year Christian studies major and one of the featured student panelists, said “I celebrate Black History less as a month and more year-round. I can’t just be Black for a month,” while on the panel and then again in an interview with the Point.
Etefa said that Black History month is an opportunity for intentional time to both remember and embrace Black History.
“You can’t be proud of who you are without remembering where you came from,” Etefa said.
Etefa said that events like the panel hosted by BSU and the Office of Multicultural and International Student Services (OMISS) are a tangible way that Black History is being acknowledged and diversity is celebrated. She also said that there are many ways for PLNU to grow as a campus in regards to celebrating Black History.
“In some spaces it’s celebrated, but if Loma as a whole is not celebrating it [Black History] then I don’t know if we can consider it a real celebration. Are we going to remember every now and then, or are we going to remember year-round?” Etefa said.
Per PNLU’s website, 39% of traditional undergraduate students are “racially diverse;” an estimated 2.19% of all enrolled students are Black.
In an interview with the Point, three student panelists from the event hosted by BSU said that as students of color, they don’t alway feel diversity being celebrated across the entire campus. These students included Jamar Mack, fourth-year kinesiology major, Narissa Lane, fourth-year criminal justice major and Etefa. All three panelists said they could think of a few tangible ways that PLNU could better celebrate diversity and belonging beyond OMISS-sponsored events.
Mack said that inviting more diverse speakers into chapel would be a helpful way to celebrate diverse histories and experiences.
“It would be cool if we had more people of color speaking at chapel, and not just on MLK day or during Black History Month,” Mack said. “If there were people of color randomly sprinkled in here and there, we would be integrated with different communities.”
Lane is enrolled in a Civil Rights Pilgrimage class taught by Glen Laster at PLNU, which teaches students about the Civil Rights Movement and is offering a trip through the South over spring break 2023. Lane said that this class is also a place where she has felt the Black experience affirmed and celebrated.
“I appreciate Glen stepping up, and the people who came before, for starting that pilgrimage,” Lane said. “I definitely think that it [the civil rights movement] should be celebrated, but also, we should be educated about Black History outside of just that class.”
Lane said that a way to make sure that Black culture and Black History are being celebrated year-round is to have BSU events promoted by PLNU’s Associated Student Body (ASB) board of directors.
“Everyone loves ASB and everyone knows who ASB is,” Lane said. “But not everyone knows who MOSAIC is.”
MOSAIC, or Multicultural Opportunities for Students Actively Involved in Community, includes various clubs for minorities on campus.
Walter Augustine, associate vice president for diversity and belonging, said that MOSAIC serves two key purposes.
“One purpose is to provide spaces of belonging for students from various affinity groups– a taste of cultural ‘home cooking,’ if you will, for students who have left their home cultures in coming to PLNU,” Augustine said. “A second key purpose is to invite students from other cultures to attend their club events and learn more about the diverse cultures which make up the PLNU student body.”
Mack said that BSU and other clubs in MOSAIC are spaces where he feels like he can engage in one important part of Black History month, which is education.
“Each year, I try to learn more about Black History and try to educate myself more so that I can further educate people,” Mack said.
BSU has put on several events to celebrate Black culture this past year, including Taste the Soul where students ate soul food and raised funds for elderly people in Selma. They also hosted a panel on allyship in an academic setting, and a movie night for students on campus last October.
The student panelists said that having these events be promoted by the entire campus community, not just the students of color who are in MOSAIC clubs. They said that events like the vigil for Martin Luther King Jr. on Jan. 17th, or their panel for Black History Month, should be posted on social media so that the entire student body is encouraged to attend.
To see the ASB instagram, visit https://www.instagram.com/plnu_asb/?hl=en. To learn about spaces that are intentionally dedicated to diversity and belonging, visit https://www.pointloma.edu/offices/multicultural-international-student-services, and https://www.instagram.com/plnu_mosaic/?hl=en to learn about upcoming events.
Written By: Reyna Huff