Black History Month asks ‘Are we free?’

By Dani Murtagh

“Are we free?” is the running question posed to students as the
theme of this year’s Black History Month.

Many students have similar opinions of what Black History Month
means, such as being aware of and remembering the contributions of
many revolutionary black people, celebrating culture and unity, and
overcoming adversity.

The theme’s artwork is drawing a lot of attention to the events
going on throughout February.

“It’s supposed to be controversial,” said Marques Dickson, a
second-year business and English literature student.

The artwork, which was created and voted on by students in the
Black History Month Committee, pictures a noose hanging down from
the words “are we free?” highlighted against a dark background.
Below the noose are three young black girls looking up at it,

“I don’t really think it’s controversial,” said La’Keisha
Gilford-Beard, the African American Student Center coordinator. “I
think that it’s uncomfortable, but I feel that it’s important to
get uncomfortable sometimes so that we’re really able to look at
what’s going on and explore our thoughts and ideas.”

Gilford-Beard said the theme will make the programs
thought-provoking. Her goal is to challenge the way people think
and their ideals, and to make people look at themselves

A student panel will address the theme’s message during today’s
opening ceremony.

“The [purpose of the] theme is to get people aware of the fact
that we are making good progress, but we still have a long way to
go,” said Tammie Velasquez, a senior ethnic and women’s studies

Many students, however, were taken aback by the noose or saw the
image as inflammatory.

“I know the point they are trying to make,” said Donna Cook, a
fourth-year animal science student. “But what does this do to
promote awareness of community issues or history?”

Such reactions to the image may be just what organizers need for

This year’s goal is to get people to think critically about the
issues that impact the black community and how those issues impact
every person, even if he or she is not part of the black community,
Gilford-Beard said.

“I believe that it’s important to celebrate culture, but
sometimes we get stuck at the celebratory stage,” said
Gilford-Beard. “This year, I’m really excited because I feel like
the Black History Month Committee really worked hard to deal with
issues [beyond] African dance or music.

“I’m excited to see that conversations and discussion will be

The AASC will be hosting a number of events throughout month in
conjunction with other campus organizations and clubs. The opening
ceremony is today from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. in the Bronco Student
Center’s Ursa Major suite.

The quality and content of the events focuses on those issues
and sets a new programming standard for Black History Month at Cal

The events were created to allow attendees to take an in-depth
look at black history through discussions, presentations and

Different programs are held nearly five days a week throughout
the month and are open to all students.

A Soul Lounge was actually held Friday, which incorporated music
and poetry to educate the audience about black history.

Other events include a discussion about HIV and AIDS followed by
free HIV testing provided by the Wellness Center, and an Elder’s
Reception, which focuses on giving respect to people who have
affected students’ lives and communities in a positive way.

“All the events are focused for educating everybody,” said Karl
Harris, a senior urban and regional planning student. “It’s for
people of all ethnicities to learn about the community and to
encourage African-Americans to learn about their history.”

Black History Month asks

Lucio Villa/Poly Post

Black History Month asks ‘Are we free?’

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