By LIZ MACLEAN
PEACE will kick off Black History Month with Black Lives Matter, an interactive event for students, on Friday, Feb. 5 from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. in Vaughn lobby. Organizations such as the Black Student Union (BSU) and Diversity Fellowship will table in the lobby and explain how the Black Lives Matter movement affects college students and diversity here at UT.
“The PEACE office isn’t there to make a stand one way or another, we just want to make students think about the matter at hand,” Austin Yates, freshman government and world affairs major and one of the Co-directors of Events at PEACE, said. “I think it’s going to be interesting on our campus because we have a good mix of students coming from different backgrounds with different political views, so I’m interested to see how it turns out.”
The main goal of the Black Lives Matter event is to educate students on Black History Month and its importance, as well as make students more aware of relevant topics like the Black Lives Matter movement.
“I want students to come through and make their own opinion on the topics,” Yates said.
Brianna Mercer, senior criminology major and president of BSU, says she hopes to educate students on the purpose of the Black Lives Matter Movement and break down some of the negative connotations that come with it.
“While everyone may not have a positive outlook on it, it’s a movement started for positive reasons and we don’t want people to taint that memory of it, because the movement in and of itself isn’t a bad one,” Mercer said.
Mercer also wants to inform students about Black History Month and the Black Lives Matter movement and why it’s important to BSU members, and should be important to other students, as well.
“At the end of the day, regardless of how we feel about the topic, when something happens to one specific part of society, everyone is impacted from it,” Mercer said. “When it impacts one, it impacts us all.”
BSU will hold two events every week throughout February, except for the last week, when they will have one event every day from the 22nd to the 27th. The organization is planning a black business expo, where local businesses owned by minorities can exhibit their success and give students tips on how to be successful business owners. BSU will also hold a church service in Plant Hall, complete with the USF gospel choir, and a Black History Month luncheon coordinated with Diversity Fellowship.
Guest speaker Naima Johnston is a historian who specializes in African-American history. Her presentation at the luncheon is entitled, “What I Didn’t Learn in School – An Intro to Unknown African-American History,” covering racial topics that people weren’t exposed to as children.
Jacob Jefferson, Student Coordinator of Diversity Fellowship, says their goal is to educate people on African American history and why it is important. The luncheon is open to staff and students alike, and Diversity encourages people to sign up on OrgSync.
“There are people from all over campus, from different organizations that don’t necessarily have anything to do with Black History Month. They come and they learn – that’s my favorite part,” Jefferson said.
BSU will speak at the luncheon, which is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. on Friday, Feb. 12. Mercer is excited to take part in spreading the luncheon and educate students about Black History Month.
The objective of BSU is to create a positive image of the African American community and other minorities both on campus and in the Tampa Bay area. They have meetings every other Monday, some of them fun and interactive so students can meet one another, and others more serious to focus on issues at hand.
BSU isn’t just for African-Americans, either. Mercer encourages anyone who is interested to come to a meeting and see what they are all about.
The Black History Month event schedule will be posted on OrgSync, as well as on BSU’s Facebook page.