When senior applied psychology major Gabrielle Elam was just a freshman, her involvement with the Black Student Association was limited. Elam said she primarily went to the general body meetings as a freshman, but as the years went by, she grew more involved in BSA’s various events. Now, as the president of the BSA, Elam said she deeply understands the importance of hosting events which cater to the black perspective, especially during Black History Month.
“It’s different to have actual events for Black History Month, because in high school you didn’t have anything like that,” Elam said. “Having a Black Student Association to host these events, just letting people know that there are others on campus like you, that wanna have fun like you, that grew up in the same environment as you and now you all go to the same school… it’s really nice to join everyone together.”
According to Elam, the events for this month aim primarily to be educational of the black experience and the fun for all attendees. Among the biggest events for the month are the Black Gala, game nights, the Legacy of Excellence Dinner and a poetry-reading with world-renowned African-American writer Randall Horton.
The Black Gala, which took place on Feb. 8, was the first to ever take place at the University of Indianapolis. Similar to a homecoming gala, according to Elam, the Black Gala aimed to be a night of fun, food and dancing to kick off the events to come throughout the rest of Black History Month.
“Events like the gala benefit the students because one, they’re educational, and two, they’re fun,” said Elam. “This campus is really small, so this is also a way to closely engage with people from different backgrounds. I hope [attendees] gain confidence to embrace their culture and ethnicity, and want to engage with other people on campus.”
Another event BSA hosted for Black History Month was a trivia game night, which happened on Feb. 12. According to junior environmental science major Deshon Riley, the game night was constructed to be fun and collaborative, but in a way that educates others about the accomplishments of historical black figures.
“Black History Month is a time for us to celebrate.”
“We aim to announce more of the accomplishments that go unnoticed in the history books and maybe in the news that we typically take for granted,” Riley said. “That will help a lot of people of color on campus have an understanding of the accomplishments that we do have, and it will give people more of a motivation to accomplish things in life. We look to enlighten and encourage and inspire.”
Riley, who is the event coordinator for the BSA, has been involved with the organization for two years. He said that being involved has been a mix of entertainment and education, particularly during Black History Month. He noted that people of color are not that color for just one month out of the whole year; rather, they must live with their identity as a person of color always, with all that entails. Because of this, he said he especially believes it is important for the events that occur during Black History Month to instill a sense of pride in one’s identity as a person of color.
“Black History Month is a time for us to celebrate. But I also feel it is a time for many people to see exactly what has been accomplished, what exactly is being accomplished and what is on the rise to be accomplished,” Riley said. “That’s where I feel like BSA comes in. We can be direct, and we can be our true selves with one another. We can take the masks off and actually speak on what we’ve done. We do this all year, but Black History Month is just a time for us to kinda put it all on display.”
Junior psychology major Darryl Hutson Jr. agreed with this sentiment. Hutson is the secretary of BSA, and believes that beyond celebration and pride, overall Black History Month is about perseverance. He said he is particularly excited for the upcoming event with Randall Horton on Feb. 20. Horton, an African-American writer, had seven convicted felonies before turning his life around through writing. To Hutson Jr., this symbolizes perseverance in much the same way all black ancestors exemplified perseverance in the face of adversity.
“I don’t celebrate [Black History Month] just this month. I celebrate it every month. I love being black just as much as I love seeing my people happy. I think it’s like perseverance,” Hutson. said. “So basically what our ancestors did, they persevered through anything they encountered, whether it was slavery, whether it was Jim Crow laws, whether it was segregation. Our ancestors, our great-great grandparents and even our parents overcame all that and persevered to build the foundation that we have right now, so we can serve our kids in the future, so we can better ourselves. Black History Month is perseverance.”