Tallahassee universities celebrate Black History Month

During Black History Month, students at Florida State University (FSU) and Florida A&M University (FAMU) honor the many achievements and contributions of African-Americans through events across Tallahassee, but how these events are coordinated differ.

Mostly FSU events are coordinated by their Black Student Union (BSU), whereas the events at FAMU are coordinated by students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members. Although both universities have events separate from each other, they both celebrate the triumphs against institutional racism and systematic oppression.

FSU’s Black Student Union is comprised of 36 members, but only two master coordinators are primarily responsible for facilitating the Black History Month events. Planning begins in the fall when each committee on BSU’s executive board submits their event ideas to a cabinet for approval.

Since the BSU begins planning during the fall of the previous year, FSU already has a calendar of events prepared. FAMU however, announces events as the month progresses.

This year the BSU chose a Harlem Renaissance theme for their festivities which included Town Hall Meetings, Afro Funk Fest, panel discussions and an athletic competition.

Gladys Murray, who received her undergraduate degree from FAMU and her graduate degree from FSU, has experienced the culture at both universities during Black History Month.

“Florida State’s Black Student Union is very active. During my time as a graduate student, they held an event on every single day of Black History Month to commemorate the season, which I thought was very impressive. Since FSU is a PWI (predominantly white institution), Black students come together in the BSU to unify, organize, and create,” Murray said.

BSU’s Vice President, Diamond Hill, said one of the organization’s goals this year was to allow other organizations to co-sponsor more events. BSU partnered with other organizations within the Coalition of Black Organizational Leadership, to execute events on campus.

“Although we have many collaborations with other organizations for events, I wish we could do more with FAMU. We have some panelists and hosts that come over, but I really wish we could have an event on FAMU’s campus,” Hill added.

At FAMU, the university receives input from various campus stakeholders on its events. The #ForTheCulture Town Hall and the Harambee Festival specifically have both been organized by committees and groups that include students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members. Individual colleges, schools, and organizations on campus host Black History Month events and often collaborate as well.

According to Vernon Bryant, FAMU’s events coordinator, FAMU has played an important role in Black History Month since its inception and continues to do so.

“Throughout the year, through the impact of our alumni, students, faculty and staff, our unique programs and community outreach, we in some shape or form are continuing to contribute to the rich history of African-Americans,” Bryant said.

This year a host of other events were held at FAMU including a “Discovering Your Roots” workshop, an “African-Americans in Times of War” panel discussion, and a “Coffee House” Jazz Concert.

When asked her favorite Black History Month event on FAMU’s campus, Murray noted Convocation as her top choice.

“There’s nothing like seeing all of your classmates, faculty, and leadership looking like the kings and queens we are, dressed in African regalia,” Murray added. “I also loved the music selection for this particular Convocation; it was so moving and truly reconnected me and many others with where we have come from as a people.”

While both institutions mostly celebrate Black History Month separately, both campuses show their deep appreciation and gratitude of African-American culture.

“Black History Month is an opportunity for all of us to pause and reflect on the contributions of those who came before us and those who will soon emerge as leaders that will take our community to higher heights,” Bryan added.