As the calendar turned to February, St. Thomas organizations had filled the month with opportunities to tour a virtual history museum, hear from experts in the medical and genealogy fields and create art: all experiences that put the spotlight on Black Americans.
“We looked for student-driven themes that encompass history, advocacy, the arts, science and highlighting Black-owned businesses and programs,” said Alex Hernandez-Siegel, director of the Office of Student Diversity and Inclusion Services (SDIS) in the Division of Student Affairs. “Greatness doesn’t just come from one or two groups. It’s important to acknowledge the contributions of everyone.”
As part of these Black History Month events, St. Thomas will host Dr. Damon Tweedy, a physician and author of Black Man in a White Coat, at noon on Thursday, Feb. 4, for a conversation about race and medicine. Hernandez-Siegel said, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to disproportionately impact communities of color, Dr. Tweedy’s insights are especially critical.
The work of genealogist Tony Burroughs aims to shed light on those important contributions of Black Americans. The bestselling author is set to share his expertise on Feb. 16 in a St. Thomas virtual event. Uncovering cultural heritage of Black ancestors, Burroughs writes, aims to expand the ways Americans imagine their past and future.
Art, in several forms, will also be part of Black History Month programming. In a workshop with Peyton Scott Russell, a Minnesota artist, on Feb. 11, Tommies will explore the history and art form of graffiti. Those who RSVP will receive a supply kit to create while learning. And student slam poets are invited to submit their own piece. A chosen winner will perform alongside two award-winning, national slam poets on Feb. 25.
St. Thomas is also hosting a virtual tour of the “True Black History Museum” on Tuesday, Feb. 9. Curator Fred Saffold will present an exhibit that features more than 150 artifacts and includes original documents from important figures in American history, including Martin Luther King Jr., Angela Davis, George Washington Carver and President Barack Obama.
“Our goal with these programs is to help participants think critically of our history and learn about the work of national and local African American leaders and educators in many disciplines,” Hernandez-Siegel said. “As part of our work in providing a well-rounded and social justice education to our students and community, Black History Month programming helps us to reflect and learn of the important contributions of our Black/African American community and the community’s impact through the past and present.”
Hernandez-Siegel said that while St. Thomas is emphasizing and highlighting these themes in February, the goal is to celebrate and acknowledge the work and contributions of communities of color throughout the year.
“We have heritage months, but we really want to form a culture where we celebrate the work of everyone throughout the year,” Hernandez-Siegel said.
A full listing of St. Thomas’ Black History Month events, which run throughout the month of February, is online at Tommie Link, by searching for “Diversity Activities Board” or “Student Diversity and Inclusion Services.”