Black History Month commemorated
Joseph Vincenzi – Reporter
As a celebration of Black history, the campus commemorated prominent activists and their actions to fight social injustice and advocate for civil rights in a segregated United States.
The event, which occurred in the Michael J. Adanti Student Center Ballroom at 6:00 p.m. Tuesday, was a display of many cultural and historical aspects of black culture and civil rights. There were student soloists and a student choir performing traditional African American songs, short scenes from historic plays, and special guest speakers to talk about civil rights issues.
In the first half of the show, the SCSU choir performed several traditional African American songs onstage, including “Deliver Daniel” and other black gospel songs.
After the choir, a few students acted out a scene from the old play, “Red Velvet,” in which the characters are acting out a play that they are preparing for. “Red Velvet” is significant in that it features a major black role.
Professor Frank Harris III spoke shortly before the second half of the event to introduce guest speaker Susan Robeson, who was to share the life of her grandfather Paul Robeson as well as aspects of her own life.
Robeson began with her grandfather’s early years growing up in Princeton, N.J. She recounted Paul’s shaky experiences with McCarthyism, discrimination, and even some unlucky encounters with the FBI.
“The FBI came to the house, and they took everything from the family,” said Robeson, citing the government’s discontent with the antisegregation messages Paul pushed at the time.
Robeson showed the incredible traction that Paul’s anti-segregation message received as he continued to advocate for better treatment of black World War II veterans. Robeson detailed a fateful encounter between Paul and President Harry Truman on an incident where four African Americans were lynched.
“The president stood up in front of my grandfather and said, ‘you don’t make policy, so get out,’” said Robeson.
As he was affiliated with the communist party, Paul was targeted by the U.S. government so far as to have his passport revoked. Only in fighting through the Supreme Court did Paul receive his passport years later.
Susan Robeson called her grandfather a “citizen of the world,” and talked about the state of civil rights in the modern world.
“We have those with authoritarian government today,” said Robeson. “We should always be keeping an eye out for signs of when things start to go too far, and ordinary people are heavily affected.”
Students said that they were very happy with the direction of the event. Clinical health major Julia Barrows, a graduate student, highlighted the educational value the event had on students.
“I thought it was very informative,” said Barrows. “It’s good for everyone to hear from an event like this.”
Barrows said Susan Robeson spoke well and that the event would be beneficial in spreading awareness of both black history and the importance of advocating for civil rights.
Photo Credit: Izzy Manzo