KOKOMO, Ind. — Black history is American history.
Indiana University Kokomo plans a slate of activities aimed at provoking conversation about current events, while also entertaining to commemorate Black History Month.
“I hope to open people’s hearts and minds,” said Alisha Elam, vice president of Cougar Advocates for Diversity, which planned the commemoration with Maria Ahmad, coordinator of student life and campus diversity.
“For some people, race is a heavy topic,” Ahmad said. “You have to get the conversation started. Our goal is to begin that dialogue. Race and ethnicity have an impact on all people. If you don’t talk about it, you don’t realize how someone else feels.”
Black History Month is not just for African Americans, she noted.
“American history can’t be mentioned without talking about black history,” she said. “Black History Month gives a spotlight to history that is not talked about, because it’s a sensitive topic to many. If you don’t talk about what happened in the past, it’s difficult to talk about what will happen in the future. You can’t make a good decision today without considering what happened in the past.”
Elam noted that history is often taught in a one-sided way, marginalizing the accomplishments of African Americans.
“Black people have contributed so much to American culture, and it’s important for everyone to learn about the wonderful things they have done,” she said.
Black History Month kicks off Thursday, February 4, with a performance by Step Afrika!, one of the top 10 African American dance companies in the United States, at 6:30 p.m. in Havens Auditorium. Doors open for the free performance at 6 p.m.
The first professional company dedicated to the tradition of stepping, it combines that dance form with African traditional dance, and influences from other dance and art forms. The show includes songs, storytelling, humor, and audience participation, along with an educational component.
“They goes all the way back to Africa, explaining how stepping started, and how it evolved,” Ahmad said.
On February 9, students, faculty, and staff will participate in the #BlackLivesMatter panel discussion, at noon in the Kelley Student Center, Room 130.
Elam is excited for this discussion, because “I feel like there has been a lot of wrong information in the media saying what “#BlackLivesMatter is all about,” she said. “We want to bring awareness to the disproportionate police brutality people of color face, and the justice they don’t receive.”
Black History Month events continue at 7 p.m. Wednesday, February 17, with black and Jew dialogue, in Kresge Auditorium. It will be a skit type performance, talking about stereotypes both groups face, and includes discussion after the skit.
“It’s comedy, but it’s meaningful,” Ahmad said.
The final event is a showing of the movie Selma, at 7 p.m. Thursday, February 25, in Kresge Auditorium.
All events are free and open to the public. Free parking is available on campus.
Doors open to Havens Auditorium at 6 p.m., and the performance begins at 6:30 p.m.
Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.