For the first time in recent history, few official events and activities have been planned at the University of Kansas to recognize Black History Month. Niya McAdoo, the head of the Black Student Coalition, said this is a direct result of COVID-19 making in-person gatherings difficult, if not impossible.
While safety concerns in a pandemic are understandable, McAdoo said KU could have done more through the month of February to celebrate Black History Month by organizing online gatherings to recognize the contributions of Black Americans.
“It’s very disheartening,” McAdoo said. “Especially during Black History Month when they were so adamant over the summer about standing with the Black communities in the wake of police brutality.”
KU’s Office of Multicultural Affairs confirmed in an email to the Kansan that it had to cut back on program offerings because of the pandemic and a staff reduction resulting from the university’s reorganization. But the office said it has made efforts to commemorate Black History Month by posting Black history facts and information on its social media profiles.
University leaders gave an update on the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging office's reorganization. The organization said they are working on creating a new mandatory training for students and faculty.
The office is also partnering with the Center for Sexuality & Gender Diversity and oSTEM to host a community conversation about intersectionality and dismantling anti-Blackness within the Queer community. The event is scheduled for 7 p.m. today on Zoom.
Aside from this event, however, no other Black History Month events are listed to be taking place on campus, per KU’s website. The university did not respond to a request for information about any other events or why more events were not held throughout the month of February.
Events and activities celebrating the month are also hard to find in Lawrence and Douglas County due to concerns about public gatherings and COVID-19 safety. The Lawrence Public Library held the ‘Word Up B.L.A.C.K Lawrence’ open mic event Feb. 12 via Zoom. The event encouraged participants to read their work and hear work of other authors. It included a poetry kit to inspire people of all ages to compose poetry in new and creative ways.
Across campus, in-person events have been reduced since last spring because of COVID-19 safety concerns. KU has limited gatherings to small groups and requires mask-wearing and social distancing.
Several KU groups are using their social media outlets to post educational information in celebration of the Black community, McAdoo said. Groups such as Teach KU, The Plug KU, the Office of Multicultural Affairs and the Emily Taylor Center have all dedicated time to recognize the importance of Black history.
Across the country, Black History Month recognizes the African American community and its achievements shaping U.S. history. The inspiration for the celebration was Carter G. Woodson, who devoted himself to educating others about the achievements and contributions of African Americans.
Every year, Black History Month has a theme, with this year’s focus being “The Black Family: Representation, Identity and Diversity.” The theme is centered on the African diaspora, or scattered population, and Black families around the U.S.
With few events on campus this year celebrating Black History Month, McAdoo said it’s important that students and the community as a whole understand the importance of Black History Month and Black Americans’ contributions.
“I think this month truly is a time for Black people with no constraints to be loud and proud of being Black and how much our community has shaped the overall history of this country,” McAdoo said.
The University of Kansas Medical Center has several virtual events planned throughout February to honor Black History Month. More information on the events can be found on KUMC’s website.
Zoom information for the Center for Sexuality & Gender Diversity and oSTEM's conversation tonight at 7 p.m.:
Zoom Meeting ID: 926 1487 0059