During February, the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center (NMBCC)—a culture center under the Office of the Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Multicultural Affairs (OVPDEMA)—will celebrate Black History Month across Indiana University Bloomington by hosting multiple events dedicated to Blackness and the Black experience. Additionally, the 2019-2020 school year will be the Neal-Marshall’s 50th anniversary.
“We here at the Neal-Marshall always try to make every day feel like Black History Month,” Monica Johnson, director of the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center, said. “There are aspects of Black culture in everything, and Black History Month gives us another opportunity to showcase just how important and influential Black folks have been and continue to be.”
This year, the theme of Black History Month in Bloomington is: “For the Culture.”
“It’s a great theme, because it recognizes all things Black from a Black perspective, like Black resilience, Black creativity, and Black intellectualism,” Gloria Howell, associate director of the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center, said. “Black History Month is where we can show off just how multifaceted Black culture is. We are not a monolithic group, and this is a great opportunity to explore what Black culture means to different people in different contexts.”
“The mission of the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center is to create and consistently facilitate activities and programming that challenge, support, and contribute to the continued development and success of Black students within the Indiana University community,” Yolanda Treviño, assistant vice president for strategy, planning, and assessment, said. “Every year the NMBCC is intentional with its Black History Month programming to include learning opportunities and teachable moments through programs and events.”
The celebration begins January 31 with the NMBCC’s kickoff event—a dual art exhibit and a fashion show. The exhibition, curated by MFA student Larissa Danielle Smith, will focus on Black women, Black hair, and Black love while the fashion show—titled Black the Runway—showcases a wide variety of fashions and brings students together across campus. Categories include African-inspired clothing, church fashion, plus-sized clothing, men’s wear, and clothing worn in iconic Black films and TV shows.
“With this event and majority of the things happening throughout the semester, we wanted to put a 50th-anniversary spin on them to honor the history of the NMBCC, as well as the African American Arts Institute (AAAI) and the Department of African American and African Diaspora Studies,” Howell said. “For example, we’ll have some old costumes from the IU Soul Revue being modeled by AAAI students. It’s a celebration of our history in a unique and engaging way.”
The NMBCC, in collaboration with the Integrated Program for the Environment, will host an Environmental Social Justice Speaker Series featuring Valerie Grim, Ph.D., on February 11. This discussion will focus on Black farmers and Black agriculture and the connection between social justice and the environment.
The NMBCC will also host an open mic night called “I am my Ancestors’ Wildest Dreams” on February 12 in collaboration with the Kelley School of Business Office of Diversity Initiatives. The event will highlight Black talent as participants use a variety of methods, such as spoken word poetry, singing, art displays, and playing musical instruments to honor their ancestors and build upon the foundation they left behind.
In partnership with the African American and African Diaspora Studies Department, the NMBCC will continue their Black Table Talk Series on February 19 with a Midday Lunch and Learn, as a new spin on the traditional Neal-Marshall Midday House party. It will retain its familiar aspects, such as the fellowship and the food, but will now feature an educational component focused on Black student activism at Indiana University.
“This 50th anniversary has prompted us to dig into the history of our center and the history of Black IU. We had so many rich conversations with people who were here during the 70s and 80s and 90s who were involved in activist efforts. During this event, we’re going to have a diverse pool of faculty, staff, alumni, and a current student who will talk about student activism, organizing, and its implications. Even though we are talking about the past, we want to know what this means for the future of our students.”
The final Black History Month event has been around since the 1980s. The Black Knowledge Bowl is a quiz show where teams compete against one another to answer questions on topics such as Black pop culture, Black literature, Black politics, Things Black People Say, and “Blackity-Black-Black.” It will take place on February 27.
“It’s like an old school knowledge bowl with a twist,” Howell said. “Not only is the event exciting because the students are competing and learning and discovering things about Black history and culture, but the student staff in the Neal-Marshall are planning the Knowledge Bowl. Our undergraduate students are being mentored by our graduate students to plan this event, and we’re going to have Black faculty members and staff create the questions, which is something that happened back in the 80s. We’re very excited about having a fun learning experience.”
“We are very proud of our events and programs,” Johnson said. “Black History Month is a wonderful time to acknowledge Black accomplishments and think about how we, as a people, add to the world’s story. Every year our events change and develop into what we and the state of Indiana need at the time and we are very excited to provide so many opportunities for the Bloomington community to connect with during this special time.”
For more information on Black History Month, please visit the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center to learn more.