Celebrating black history, and those who make it

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In the final days of February — nationally celebrated as Black History Month — African-American history has come alive on campus.

DePauw continues to celebrate Black History Month through a number of events hosted by the Association of African American Students.

The organization has coordinated visiting plays and speakers to celebrate and educate students on the contributions African-Americans have made to society.

The events kicked-off in Thompson Recital Hall Thursday with a performance of the play "Mixed Medicine."

Freetown Village, an Indianapolis-based living-history museum, seeks to educate people about African American history in Indiana through performance, according to their website.

AAAS President Leila Patterson, a senior, said she hopes the event will get people talking about issues like healthcare in the black community.

Friday, Walter M. Kimbrough, president of the historically black Philander Smith College, will speak about the relationship between black students and greek organizations.

The event is co-sponsored by the National Pan-Hellenic Council and will be held at 6 p.m. in Peeler Auditorium. Kenneth Goings, an African- American Studies professor at Ohio State University, will visit campus to speak Feb. 28.

Patterson said that it is difficult for students to learn about African-Americans in most history classes at DePauw without taking a course from the black studies department.

"American history doesn't necessarily focus on African-American history at DePauw," Patterson said.

For freshman Bri'anna Moore, Black History Month isn't just a chance to observe the history of African- mericans. She sees Black History Month as a way to take pride in the accomplishments of other black DePauw students and alumni.

Specifically, Moore points to Percy Julian, a highly regarded black chemist and DePauw alumnus.

"Percy Julian is our own piece of black history," Moore said. "He made a name for himself in science."

Black studies and history professor Mac Dixon-Fyle said that although Black History Month is a chance to commemorate important individuals from the past, studying the struggle of historical black figures is also a way to inspire future change.

Dixon-Fyle said Black History Month a time for the campus to re-energize itself and rededicate itself to pursuing justice and bringing pride to minorities.

"It is also the moment for rededication to the pursuit of those goals, as the struggle continues to be waged," Dixon-Fyle said. "The challenges continue, and younger generations are being called upon to follow in the footsteps of Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, and others, as they press on with the search for respectability, economic equity and fair treatment under the law."

Both Dixon-Fyle and Patterson emphasized that Black History Month is not only a celebration of blacks in history, but also a celebration of all people involved in helping to create equality and justice for black people.

"It is black people who are the center of it, but they of course recruit their allies to help them realize their dream," Dixon-Fyle said.