By Nicholas Bainbridge
February is Black History Month, and High Point University held several events throughout the month to celebrate the progress of the civil rights movement and the cultural contributions of African Americans.
The HPU Office of Multicultural Affairs organized several activities, communicating with student organizations like the Black Cultural Awareness Club to provide students with an engaging variety of content.
Terry Chavis, the director of Multicultural Affairs, explained that HPU wanted to acknowledge as much as they could about Black history.
“To be Black in our society is more than just navigating racial issues,” Chavis said. “It is the historical barriers their ancestors overcame for them to be here, and the cultural isolation they experience while achieving an education. The programs selected for this month are designed to dialogue on these issues and to speak on the positive outlook we have as an institution moving forward with inclusion.”
Uncommon Grounds is an HPU panel made for discussing complex issues civilly as a campus community. On Feb. 18, the panel held a discussion on the topic of hair culture in the Black community. Moderator Dr. Doug Hall, assistant director of career and professional development at HPU, invited two speakers to guide the discussion.
Donnel Shelf, a barber, and Authrine T.K. Singleton, a stylist and community activist, talked about the relevance of hair to African American culture. They explained that hair is important not only because of people’s ability to express themselves through it but also because barbershops and salons are places where Black communities could gather and have a sense of belonging.
They also spoke on the beauty of different hairstyles and how certain Black hairstyles have become prominent images in widespread culture.
The Poetry Café, an organization that works to promote artists and their voices, held a special online event in collaboration with HPU on Feb. 19. Students and local artists shared their writings, including poetry, monologues, rap and other writing forms to express themselves.
Chavis explained that this was a regular part of HPU’s Black History Month and that the Poetry Cafe worked with Multicultural Affairs on other occasions to hold events, such as the “Writing While Black” on MLK Jr. Day.
The Poetry Cafe also featured a performance by poet Josephus Thompson III, the founder and president of the organization.
More information on The Poetry Cafe and the works of Thompson can be found on his website, josephusiii.com.
One thing that set this year’s celebration apart was the increased reliance on the internet, as social distancing limited the ability to have in-person events. However, Chavis said that the reliance allowed for a broader reach because it made it easier for people to participate by having online events.
A group of students went on a tour of the Greensboro International Civil Rights Center and Museum on Feb. 20. There, they learned about the rich history of different groups’ fights for civil rights.
Special attention was paid to the Greensboro sit-in. In 1960, four young African Americans protested segregation by refusing to leave the Woolworth’s lunch counter after being denied service because of their race.
This and other sit-ins led to changes in company policies to remove discriminatory practices.
It is because of the impact of these and other events that Chavis believes it is worth remembering and honoring the efforts of the protestors and others like them.
Several films were featured in the Extraordinaire Cinema throughout the month to highlight Black cultural identity, including “Just Mercy,” “For Colored Girls” and the Academy Award-winning drama “Selma.”
The Black Cultural Awareness Club and Black Student Union hosted a panel on Feb. 23, called “What it’s like to be Black at HPU,” where they discussed various issues and aspects relating to how Black students experience life at the university.