Emily C. Roush
The Ashland Beacon
Ohio University Southern is offering a wide range of public programming in honor of Black History Month. Events typically take place at the Ironton campus but have moved to a virtual format because of the continuing COVID-19 pandemic. The lineup includes four pre-recorded events that are currently online and two live programs that will take place on February 16 and February 24. All programs are free and open to the public.
The goal of these Black History Month programs is to reach a broad audience and emphasize the importance of Black history as an integral part of American history. “First, let me say that Black History Month or ‘black history’ is not just for black people, it’s for all Americans,” stated Robert Pleasant, Associate Director of Student Resource Commons at Ohio University Southern. He continued, “I believe that we cannot learn American history without learning African American history and the experience of the African American community.” Pleasant also underscored that celebrating Black History Month is an important component of understanding, acknowledging, and combating racism. “Black History Month allows young people and adults, to develop the knowledge they need to work toward creating a more inclusive society where racial discrimination is not accepted.”
Pleasant also hopes that Ohio University Southern’s Black History Month events will be a starting point that inspires people to learn about the different groups and cultures that comprise the United States. “I would encourage everyone to learn about the history of all people who make up this great country of ours. I hope we take the time to learn the good, bad, and the ugly of American history and learn from it.” Additionally, she wants people to realize that Black history should be taught and learned year-round. “In his goal to recognize the achievements and the contributions of African Americans, Carter G. Woodson, known as the ‘Father of Black History’, wanted African Americans, and all Americans, to know the African American story and to see themselves represented in it. One of my concerns is that if we just relegate the history to just February, then I think we are missing the goal and purpose of Black History Month.”
Pleasant further noted that the Black experience is often left out of larger conversations about American history and hopes that programs like those hosted by Ohio University Southern will encourage people to expand their knowledge of Black history and see how it fits within the larger scope of American history. “Everyone should see that their stories are valuable and add to the fabric of this nation. In an ideal world, black history would be fully incorporated as part of American history. But in reality, the African American experience isn’t told in all parts of the country or in all history books.” He also sees increasing knowledge of Black history as a tool in creating a more accepting society. “In a diverse nation as ours, if we do not know where we’ve been, I’m not sure how we move forward in a positive and inclusive way.”
All the OUS Black History Month programs feature discussions from community leaders from across the Tri-State region. The following pre-recorded events are now available for viewing:
•The 29th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. CommUNITY Celebration features music, inspirational dance, the announcement of the 2021 MLK Writing Contest Winners, a tribute to healthcare workers, and more. This program originally aired on the Ohio University Southern’s television station but is now available to watch on YouTube at https://youtu.be/YfBcmndcQqA.
•Reflections: Where Do We Go from Here is a discussion between four area residents who share their thoughts about race, personal experiences, and how society can move forward. Guests include Rev. Larry Sivis, Bernice Henry, Dr. Salome Nnoromele, and Rev. Margaret Tyson. This video can be viewed at www.ohio.edu/southern/events-southern/reflections.
•A Conversation with Young Leaders is a panel with young activists Reece Stager, Austin Johnson, and Langley Sabastian moderated by Dr. Teresa McKenzie. This program aims to honor the legacy of Dr. King by highlighting community members working toward social justice. This program can be viewed at https://www.ohio.edu/southern/events-southern/diversity-events#youngleaders.
•MLK Interfaith Dialogue: Finding Our Common Ground continues the theme of honoring Dr. King. This panel focuses on how faith communities can embrace racial diversity and establish relationships. Moderated by Dr. Kristi Barnes, Associate Professor of Psychology at OUS, the following area religious leaders take part in the discussion: Rev. Margaret Tyson, Pastor, Quinn Chapel AME Church, Ironton, OH.; Nasir Adbdussalam, Imam of the Islamic Association of West Virginia, Charleston, WV.; Rabbi Robert D. Judd, B’nai Sholom Congregation, Huntington, WV.; and Father G. Marc Bentley, Holy Family Catholic Church and Catholic School, Ashland, KY. This program can be viewed at www.ohio.edu/southern/events-southern/diversity-events.
In addition to these pre-recorded discussions, Ohio University Southern will also host the following live virtual events.
•I AM… Micah McCarey will take place on Tuesday, February 16 from 12 to 1 p.m. Micah McCarey, Directory of Ohio University’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Center, will share his experience at Ohio University from his time as an undergraduate student in 2003 to now as an employee. His emphasis will be topics of identity development, well-being, diversity, inclusion, social justice, personal strengths, and decision-making.
•Campus Conversation: Understanding Bias, will be at 12 p.m. on Wednesday, February 24. Facilitated by Dr. Shelvy Campbell-Monroe, Associate Dean for Diversity & Inclusion at the Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine & School of Pharmacy, this conversation aims to educate participants on unconscious and implicit biases and microaggressions and discuss ways that people can reject racial stereotypes and overcome biases to create a more inclusive community.
Participants can register for both live events at www.ohio.edu/southern/events-southern/diversity-events.