Black History Month Tradition Lives on at YSU

By Alyssa Pawluk and Alexis Rufener

Photo of the Civil Rights March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom taken on Oct. 28,1963. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

In honor of Black History Month, Housing and Residence Life at Youngstown State University will hold its annual Black Heritage Festival — a series of events that educate students and faculty about African American history.

For the past five years, The Black Heritage Festival has only lasted one to two days, but has been extended to last through all of the month.

The first event this year was the Trivia and Prize Wheel, where anyone at the university could compete with one another answering questions that ranged from African American Civil War History to present day African American leaders and other culture.

The event started yesterday at 10 a.m and lasted until 2 p.m.

Those who answered correctly were allowed to spin a wheel and recieve prizes like a T-shirt or $5 in Pete’s Points.

Ashley Jones, residential education graduate assistant, explained that the event grew to fit more activities that were not able to be implemented last year.

“We made the switch from Black Heritage Festival to Black History Month for a few reasons. One being that we found that we were not able to fit all of the programs we hoped to do within the one day. Last year, we expanded Black Heritage Festival to two days and still felt that we could have had more programs if we had more time,” Jones said. “This year, we decided to expand even further to hold programs throughout the entire month. Along with being able to offer more programs, we also felt that this gave us more opportunity to collaborate with community and campus partners for events throughout the month.”

Jones explained that the purpose of the event is to educate everyone at the university about important black historians and the events that they faced.

“The purpose is to educate students about prominent figures and events throughout African American history,” Jones said. “I think that there’s really so much that we can celebrate and learn about and bring to the students around here. I think that there are so many things presently that we can talk about with different artists and different literature and also the past history and significant figures.”

Jones added that the event allows Housing and Residence Life to educate students and faculty in other ways than just print to spread the information.

“I think that YSU strives to educate its students about various cultures through many different mediums,” Jones said. “Through our Black History Month programming, we are able to bring students information through many avenues.”

Victoria Bankhead and Macey Nortey, residential education graduate assistants, along with the help of Jones, planned the programs for this month’s events.

Last year, Nortey took the stage not only to perform her favorite poem by Maya Angelou, but to also overcome a fear that she had.

“Last year at the open mic night, I conquered my fears and read one of my poems to a group of strangers and some of my close friends,” Nortey said. “[I] had the pleasure of being the emcee, which allowed me to keep the flow going and give our crowd updates on the rest of the Black History Month events.”

Students or faculty that missed the chance to answer trivia questions will have another opportunity to learn more about Black History through an open mic night that will be happening on Feb. 19 in The Hub of Kilcawley Center.