UIS celebrates Black History Month


Two guest speakers, multiple group dialogues, and the Ebony Ball highlight Black History Month at UIS this year. Events have been carefully chosen and organized by university students and staff to create an abundance of interesting options for the whole month of February.

A candlelight vigil for students to remember those important to them began the series of events on Jan. 31 at the Brookens overhang. Thursday, Feb. 5 will be a presentation by Fabienne Brooks, who broke many barriers as an African American woman working with the sheriff’s department in King County, Wash.

Brooks’s career with the King County Police Department saw her take up many different roles at various levels of power; she was with the department for 26 years and retired as the Chief of the Criminal Investigations Division.

According to her online biography, “Chief Brooks worked her way up through the ranks and her law enforcement career includes patrol, field training officer, media relations, major crimes investigation and supervision, patrol operations and precinct commander. She spent five years as the Chief of Detectives.”

An advertisement circulated by the Diversity Center describes the topic of her presentation, stating, “Ms. Brooks, former Seattle police chief, will provide a historical background of the relationship between police and Black communities from slavery to the present day, and the work she does to help bridge the gap between police and the diverse communities they serve.”

Dr. Terrell L. Strayhorn, an associate professor at the Ohio State University, will speak on Feb. 7, which is Saturday.

Strayhorn, has extensively researched African American students’ experiences at universities around the country. During his lecture at the 2012 TEDx Columbia event, Strayhorn said, “55 percent of all college students complete their degree within a five year period. And those rates can be startlingly lower for women and ethnic and racial minorities. In fact, we know from research, some of which is my own, that two thirds of all black men who enter college leave before their degree completion.”

Later in his lecture Strayhorn mentioned that he believes the students who leave before finishing their degree feel “out of place,” and argues that academic professionals should strive to make college more accepting to all.  Students can expect some of that sentiment to carry over into Strayhorn’s UIS appearance, and he also plans to talk about how students can work to create social justice for everyone.

The Black Male Collegiate Society (BMCS) will also be putting on a couple of events this month, including the “BMCS Heart of a Collegiate Man,” which takes place on Valentine’s Day. The Diversity Center’s advertisement says it will be a “Couples Retreat…an evening of fun-filled, romantic activities with that special someone. “ Relationship advice and couples therapy will be offered at the event.

BMCS is also collaborating with the Black Student Union (BSU) for the BMCS/BSU Soup and Conversation, focusing on business and social etiquette and taking place on Feb. 20.

According to Justin Rose, the Diversity Center’s Coordinator for Diverse Student Programming, “Students really helped shape this month.”

One such student, Duane Willingham II, explained that “[Rose] set up planning meetings for a few student leaders to come together to brainstorm ideas for the month. In the meetings we came up with a lot of ideas and then I and a few others took those to several places on campus to ask for funding.”

A full list of activities and speakers can be found on fliers around campus, online and in the Jan. 28 issue of The Journal.