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Black History Month at Calvin
January 31, 2007

In February, Calvin College will mark the 2007 celebration of Black History Month with a fusion of historical, cultural, spiritual and artistic events.

Some of the events will take their theme from international celebrations of 2007 as the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade.

All of February's events at Calvin are open to the general public. And that's intentional say college organizers.

Jermale Eddie“We want people to recognize that African-American history is history,” says Jermale Eddie, program coordinator for the Multicultural Student Development office. “A lot of people think these events are for the minorities and African Americans in particular. We want to welcome the entire community.”

Things begin on Monday, February 5 when the college hosts an "African American Read-In." That will be part of a national program of read-ins across the country and this marks the 18th such event. Nationally the read-ins are sponsored by the Black Caucus of the National Council of Teachers of English.

Calvin's event will begin with a Chapel Service featuring a dramatic interpretation of the life and words of Sojourner Truth. After chapel people will be invited to move to the Fish House, an on-campus coffee shop, where students, staff, and faculty will be reading selections from African American literature from 10:30 am to 2 pm (the Fish House will be offering discounted hot drinks during this time).

Monday, February 5 also marks the start of a program called “Five Days in the Black World.”

The weeklong celebration will be hosted by the Black Knights, a student group that encourages dialogue between African-American and African students about issues surrounding the African Diaspora.

On Monday, February 5, from 3:30 to 5 pm, things begin with a roundtable discussion on “The Crossings.” Referring to the many voyages of slave-bearing ships across the Atlantic, this event celebrates the termination of those crossings.

“The students are going to talk about what the event meant then and what the event means to us today,” says Michelle Loyd-Paige, interim Dean of Multicultural Affairs at Calvin. “It’s a commemoration.”

All day Tuesday, February 6, there will be a historical timeline of Black History. “It’ll be as big as the whole room, and people can come in and walk along and look at it during the day,” says sophomore Qumisha Goss, the leader of the Black Knights.

At 10 am on Wednesday, February 7, Loyd-Paige will speak in the Calvin Chapel on the theme: “Sent to Proclaim Freedom.” The sermon has a dual theme.

“This chapel will be opening the life and ministry of Christ who came to proclaim freedom,” says Loyd-Paige. “There were also many people in the history of Africans here in the Americas who came to proclaim freedom, and there was a cost to proclaiming freedom.”

At 3:30 pm on Thursday, February 8, the Commons will welcome visitors to a showing of Amistad, a 1997 movie about an 1839 mutiny aboard a slave ship.

Finally on Friday, February 9, the Commons Lecture Hall will showcase a black artist’s gallery.

“Some people do spoken word poetry reading, and there’s going to be a lot of different music selections, from blues to jazz to hip hop,” says Goss. “We’ll also display the artwork of local black artists and Calvin students.”

“I’m proud that this is a student initiative,” Loyd-Paige says of Five Days in the Black World, “that students are excited about examining their past so that they can examine their present and plan for the future.”

The Black History celebration continues beginning at 6 p.m. Saturday, with the annual Black Knight Formal, a dinner hosted by the Black Knights.

“Last year was our first year doing it at Calvin College and making it formal,” says Goss. “Generally, it’s just a time of community and of fellowship.”

Calvin alumnus Joe Ritchie, a professor of journalism at Florida A & M will speak on “Creating and Finding a Community.”

The Multicultural Student Development Office at Calvin is also sponsoring other events for Black History Month.

At 7 pm on Thursday, February 8 the college will host Christian comedian Chinnitta Morris, formerly known as “Chocolate.”

“She was really popular on BET,” says Eddie, “and she gave her life to Christ and was going to stop doing comedy until someone told her she could do it as a Christian.” The evening will also feature the Christian Life Ministry Center Drill Team.

At 6:30 pm Monday through Wednesday, February 12-14, at the Boer-Bennink residence hall, Calvin will show “When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts,” Spike Lee’s documentary of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

“It’s important just to see how the poor are treated in the United States by the government, let alone each other,” Eddie says. “Spike Lee depicts the story very well.”

On Tuesday, February 13 at 3:30 pm, Calvin will welcome Kevin Bales, president of Free the Slaves, the U.S. Sister Organization of Anti-Slavery International and a professor of sociology at Roehampton University in London. His co-authored documentary, "Slavery: A G lobal Institution," which is based on his book, Disposable People: New Slavery in the Global Economy, won the Peabody Award of 2000 and two Emmy Awards in
2002. Bales will speak in the Commons Lecture Hall in a talk open to the public and backed by the Office for Multicultural Affairs.

The Multicultural Student Development office will also provide transportation to “An Evening With Nikki Giovanni: Reflections on Race,” to be held at 7 pm on Wednesday, February 7 at the Grand Rapids Community College Applied Technology Center Banquet Rooms. Calvin students interested in attending should sign up in MSD Office.

The month will conclude with two events on back-to-back days.

First, on February 22 the college's CALL program will host Grand Rapids Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Bernard Taylor for a talk on "Public Education in General and Grand Rapids Public Schools in Particular." That talk is free and open to all and will be in the Calvin Chapel at noon.

The next day the college will host a leadership luncheon on campus from 12:30 pm to 2 pm.

Students at Calvin say its important to mark Black History Month.

Says Goss: “I feel it’s especially important at Calvin because we have such a small group of African and African-American students. It’s important for us to display our heritage and be proud of it.”

~written by communications and marketing staff writer Myrna Anderson