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Black History Month celebration begins at Furman

Students participate in the Black History Month Kick-Off at Trone Student Center.
Deborah Allen (right), Furman's associate director of diversity engagement, leans over a table with other attendees Friday at the Trone Center as part of the kickoff to Black History Month.

February is Black History Month, and Furman got the celebration started Friday morning on the front steps of the Trone Student Center with music, an informational table and free pastries that were available to all – on one condition. You had to be able to answer at least two of the black history trivia questions written on a white erase board, and organizers with the Center for Inclusive Communities weren’t lobbing softballs.

“Who was the first black Nobel Peace Prize winner” was one example, along with “What year was the NAACP founded” and “Who started the ‘Back to Africa movement,’” among many others. If you were stumped more than once, you aren’t alone — many of the students who walked by were too (the answers, in order, are Ralph Bunche, 1909 and Marcus Garvey).

But it quickly became apparent you’d get a pastry either way, because the point was to start a conversation with the steady stream of people of all races stopping by.

A Black History Month banner hanging at the Trone Student Center
February is Black History Month, and multiple events and programs are scheduled at Furman to celebrate.

“I’m a big baseball fan, so I got the first African-American to play major league baseball,” Andrew Wynkoop ’20, a psychology major from Durham, North Carolina, said. “That’s an easy one (answer: the late Jackie Robinson, who would have been 100 on Jan. 31). And then the other one was what does NAACP stand for, but I’ll be honest — I didn’t know a lot of those on there.”

Wynkoop is part of the Center for Inclusive Communities’ Dins Dialogue Series, which provides a forum for the exchange and evaluation of ideas to foster a campus environment of inclusion, but that wasn’t why he stopped. He stopped because some of the people there were his friends.

“I think (Black History Month) is a really good thing, especially on a college campus and especially at a predominantly white institution,” he said. “I think having a whole month of this on Furman’s campus is important so the entire student body gets to see this perspective and these students’ experiences.”

RJ Rogers ’20, a sociology and education studies major from Greenville, knew the answers to all of the above questions as well as another that landed much closer to home: Who is Joseph Vaughn? Many who stopped didn’t know that Vaughn was Furman’s first African-American student. Rogers wishes more students did.

“It is important to see who has helped us get to where we are at this university and who has paved the way and made the initial sacrifice for us to be here,” said Rogers, who is African-American. “It allows you to appreciate where you are and to not take for granted the opportunity that you do have.”

Asked why she visited the table, Delanie McCoy ’20, a health sciences major from Chicago, said, “I’m here to celebrate all the black history in America, being that I am an African-American woman, and to uplift my community and support the different organizations on campus. It makes me really happy that people celebrate their own culture, whatever organization it is.”

Rogers said he’d like to see a world where black history and culture is celebrated year-round, but Black History Month is a start.

“It’s nice to see your friends come together,” he said. “They smile, they laugh, they play their music that’s related to their culture. It’s just celebration of your culture, and the masses can see that. That, I think, is dope when you feel as though you’re not in the spotlight enough for positive reasons. To be in the spotlight for the positive things that you bring to society, that, to me, is what it’s for.”

Furman’s Center for Inclusive Communities will celebrate Black History Month in a variety of ways throughout February, including the Founders Day Banquet at Hartness Pavilion on Feb. 10, Black History Trivia Night on Feb. 13 at The Paddock and An Evening with Monica Bell: The Black Alumni Experience and What Came Next on Feb. 20 at Hartness.

For more information, contact Manager of the Center for Inclusive Communities Deborah Allen at Deborah.allen@furman.edu or visit the Center for Inclusive Communities in the Trone Center.

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