Rollins Celebrates Black History Month

February 02, 2024

By Jessica Firpi ’11

Black Rollins students celebrating on campus
Top: Courtesy Black Student Union. Bottom: Scott Cook.

During the celebration of Black History Month, Rollins pays homage to the rich tapestry of African American history, recognizing the pivotal lives and contributions of Black Americans and providing numerous avenues for education, engagement, and reflection.

Every February, the U.S. honors the contributions and sacrifices of African Americans who have helped shape our nation’s history and culture. In 1976, the original Black History Week—founded by Harvard-trained historian Carter G. Woodson—was expanded to a month-long celebration during the nation’s bicentennial. The country’s then President Gerald R. 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.”

At Rollins, we’re observing Black History Month and this year’s arts theme with a diverse lineup of events on campus and in the community that offer a host of ways to honor and celebrate cultural heritage with thought-provoking conversations, service-focused opportunities, themed celebrations, and more.

“Black history is not merely a struggle punctuated by a sudden change in social attitudes,” shares philosophy major Lashaughn Waiters ’24, president of the Black Student Union. “Freedom requires us to dream of a better world and actively make it so. This Black History Month, I hope that Black people will have the courage to fight fiercely, celebrate proudly, and dream out loud.”

From student-led events to academic introspection, discover a few of the ways the Rollins community is both honoring the triumphs and adversities of Black Americans throughout U.S. history and looking toward the future as agents of change.

Olin LIbrary
Photo by Scott Cook.

Olin Library

Throughout February, in the main lobby of Olin Library, you can explore a selection of Afrofuturist literature, ranging from Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci-Fi and Fantasy Culture by Ytasha Womack to The Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison and DVDs like the Marvel movie Black Panther, written exclusively by Black authors.

Coined in the 1990s, Afrofuturism is rooted in the African diaspora culture and experience, addressing topics of identity, space, and the future through a Black cultural lens within genres of science fiction, fantasy, and magic realism.

Rollins professor Matt Nichter engaging his students in discussion.
Photo by Scott Cook.

Critical Coursework

The contributions of people of African descent in the U.S. reach across every subject and field. In sociology professor Matt Nichter’s Introduction to African & African American Studies, students learn about the sweeping histories and cultures of Africa and the African diaspora. This course incorporates an analysis of historical and contemporary issues facing Africans and African Americans by integrating international perspectives and traditional archival research.

In addition, Nichter teaches The Civil Rights Movement and Black Freedom Struggle in the United States, which examines the African American freedom struggle from the era of slavery to the present, with special emphasis on the civil rights movement of the 1950s and ’60s.

Critical media and cultural studies professor Lisa M. Tillmann teaches both Advocacy & Social Justice Research and Incarceration & Inequality. The courses critically analyze social systems—criminal justice, economic, and educational, for example—and the ways in which privilege and inequality manifest. Both courses culminate in team projects where students identify a systemic problem, research that problem as well as evidence-based solutions, and develop and deliver advocacy campaigns and presentations to real policymakers.

“The goal is not to lock students into sadness or moral outrage,” says Tillmann. “Instead, I try to mobilize them into a goal of social change where they advocate for new policies to real people who have a stake in the process.”

Soul food at Rollins
Photo by Scott Cook.

Campus Center Cuisine

  • Where: The Marketplace
  • When: February 1

Dining Services celebrates Black History Month with a mouthwatering spread that pays tribute to the culinary skill and creativity of Black culture from around the world. Try dishes like baked Cajun catfish, grilled devil chicken quarter, jerk chicken thigh over a bed of coconut rice, and Cajun chicken bisque. Come hungry and ready to dig in.

Rollins student writing kind messages in chalk
Photo by Scott Cook.

5-Minute Difference

  • When: Thursday, February 1 | 12:30–2 p.m.
  • Where: Mills Lawn

Facilitated by the Center for Leadership & Community Engagement, this 5-Minute Difference event will focus on educating and fostering understanding surrounding the plight of Black people in the United States.

Rollins trivia night
Photo by Scott Cook.

Trivia: Black Theater and Dance Artists

  • When: Friday, February 2 | 3:30-5 p.m.
  • Where: Bush 176

Join the Theatre & Dance Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Accessibility Council as you play an online trivia game to learn more about the contributions of Black theater and dance artists throughout history and present day (yes, there will be prizes and snacks).

Panel of Black Rollins faculty and staff
Photo by Scott Cook.

Faculty/Staff Meet & Greet + Photoshoot

  • When: Thursday, February 15 | 3-5 p.m.
  • Where: Kathleen W. Rollins Hall, Room 310

Join us as we welcome an esteemed panel of Black faculty and staff from campus and dive into their inspiring stories, unravel the paths that led them to their current positions, and seize the opportunity to pose your burning questions. This is not just an event; it’s a dynamic platform for students to actively engage in a stimulating Q&A session and network with individuals who share similar backgrounds. Following the event, there will be a photoshoot with members of BSU where the color scheme is shades of browns and neutrals. Get ready to capture the essence of unity and diversity in style!

Rollins students in a production of "A Raisin in the Sun"

Theatre Production: A Raisin in the Sun

  • When: February 16-24
  • Where: Annie Russell Theatre

A Raisin in the Sun is a moving portrait of the Youngers, a Black family living on Chicago’s South Side in the 1950s. This powerful and poetic cornerstone of American theatre presents three generations navigating divergent dreams through a sea of prejudice. Lorraine Hansberry’s masterpiece was the first Broadway production written by a Black woman and stands as a landmark of radical truth-telling in the American theater. It has captivated and inspired millions in the decades since.

There will be a talkback with Rollins' Black Student Union on Thursday, February 22 at 7:30 p.m.

Trivia Night

  • When: February 20 | 8–9 p.m.
  • Where: Dave’s Boathouse

Brought to you by the Center for Campus Involvement, Curtis Earth will be hosting trivia night in Dave’s Boathouse: Black History Month edition! Grab a friend and test your knowledge to win a prize.

Soul Food Sunday BSU event
Photo by Scott Cook.

Soul Food Sunday

  • When: Sunday, February 25 | 4-6 p.m.
  • Where: Rice Family Pavilion

Fill up on delicious soul food like fried chicken, black-eyed peas, yams, and collard greens while engaging in meaningful conversations around the importance of food in African American culture at this much-anticipated event sponsored by the Black Student Union.

Let’s Get LITerary | Podcast

Rollins’ DEI podcast and virtual book club is back this month with a discussion on The Vanishing Half, a novel by Brit Bennett. The book tells the story of two identical sisters—one living with her black daughter in the same southern town she once tried to escape, while the other living with her white husband and secretly passing for white. Weaving together multiple strands and generations of this family, from the Deep South to California, from the 1950s to the 1990s, author Brit Bennett produces a story that explores the American history of passing, as well as considers the lasting influence of the past as it shapes a person's decisions, desires, and expectations, and explores some of the multiple reasons and realms in which people sometimes feel pulled to live as something other than their origins.

Performer Natalie Daise in "Becoming Harriet Tubman"

Theatre Production: Becoming Harriet Tubman

  • When: February 27 | 5:30 p.m.
  • Where: Sally K. Albrecht Theatre

Written and performed by Natalie Daise and directed by JW Rone, this 60-minute one-woman show explores the evolution of the formerly enslaved Araminta Ross, who became formidable abolitionist, daring Union spy, and clandestine conductor of the Underground Railroad. Immerse yourself in narrative and musical storytelling for a potent blend of education and entertainment.

The Importance of Black History Month

Philosophy professor Eric Smaw addresses the origins of Black History Month and its significance.

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