“To me, Black History Month is a celebration of people who look like me being able to take up space in this country. It is a celebration of the history and the people that America tends to forget. It is a celebration of my culture and where I come from. To be able to celebrate Black History Month on this campus is truly amazing. Without those who came before me fighting for the rights I’m able to exercise today, like going to school here, I wouldn’t have the life that I have and I’m really grateful to them for that. But most of all, being able to execute a month full of events in honor of my ancestors and my heritage, knowing that I’m living their wildest dream and that I am the manifestation of the things they fought and prayed for, is truly an honor.” – A statement from Nyshanti Ross, President of Individuals Making Progress Achieving Change Together (I.M.P.A.C.T.)
I.M.P.A.C.T. has been hosting events throughout Feb. to bring together students on campus for Black History Month. I.M.P.A.C.T. began as an interest group for students that wanted to create more minority involvement on campus. I.M.P.A.C.T. Secretary, Tayler Staley, said, “We consciously got sucked into it because we cared about it too much and want to continue it after Black History Month is over.” The professors that have helped I.M.P.A.C.T. throughout this process are Dr. Rivers, Dr. Medley and Dr. Chatterjee.
Staley states, “Black History Month is our time to shine and share what we’ve experienced.” The Helping Professions Association (HPA) and the Active Minds Club kicked off the month with a tour of Greenleaf Behavioral Health Hospital in Valdosta, Georgia hoping to provide some insight on mental health in the black community.
On Feb. 11 students were able to talk about their experiences with personal identity, cultural and familial traditions, embracing individuality and discussing a wide range of topics. This discussion, called Culture Shock, allowed students to talk freely in a room of open minds and many were moved to tears by the testimonies from their peers. The first topic was tradition, and this eventually led everyone into discussing what thanksgiving means to their family and how they celebrate. The next topics made the students think a bit deeper about being black but not fitting in black society, code-switching and mental health. First-generation students from both Jamaica and Nigeria mentioned the difference in black culture and some similarities in cuisine. Code-switching is how some people get along with different groups throughout everyday life. They appear one way with a certain group and another with a different group and this allows them to “fit in.” Their intention is not to deceive either group but more so to protect themselves and some consider that a “superpower.”
A Georgia Kids Count Workshop was also held on Feb. 11. Participants learned how to use census maps and national databases to understand rural communities. This was sponsored by ABAC and the Tift County Commission on Children and Youth. On Feb. 17 I.M.P.A.C.T. hosted a Black History Month Trivia Night and on Feb. 20, they held an Open Mic Night with the Poodles. Nick Green, a Tifton native who previously played Minor and Major League Baseball, presented Words of Motivation at a cookout on Feb. 21. He is currently a pitching coach for the Boston Red Sox. Feb. 22, a Yard Show was held to show the impact Greek Life has on African-American culture. Alpha Phi Alpha and Sigma Gamma Rho both performed.
I.M.P.A.C.T. also hosted a Black History Month Movie Night every Monday of the month. The movies shown were “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” “Best of Enemies” and “Us.” Retired Lieutenant Colonel Sammie Davis will be giving a motivational speech Feb. 25 in Howard Auditorium at 7 p.m. Freedom Singer Rutha Mae Harris will be giving a presentation on Feb. 26, 3 p.m. on her life experiences, from performing in forty-six states to being selected to perform as a member of the Georgia Mass Choir in the movie, “The Preachers Wife,” starring Denzel Washington and Whitney Houston.
Staley and Ross hope the black community on campus continues to grow. Staley states, “If you’re going through a situation where you know only another black person could understand, I want us to be able to have that conversation.”
Ross believes that in today’s climate, peaceful march and protest, along with cultivating a community, are some of the ideals the black community should implement from the leaders of the past. For ABAC to improve on cultural acceptance on campus they must, “Listen to our students, because they have some wonderful ideas and just want to be heard,” said Ross.
For Staley, celebrating Black History Month is important because “We’re being fueled with so many other types of history and other information that I think it lets us be our black selves.” Staley continues to see the group grow and expects the club to hold more events outside of Black History Month in the upcoming years.