The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

Black History Month at DePaul: Events, Panels, Exhibitions and a diverse student experience

Maya Oclassen

Celebrating the past and present legacies behind the African American diaspora, DePaul hosted a Black History Month kickoff last thursday to ring in the 54th national observance. Gathering in DePaul’s Black Cultural center on the third floor of the O’Connell building in room 305, a community of diverse individuals discussed events scheduled throughout the weeks to follow, including a trivia night, auditions for a black art showcase and a Black History exhibit.

Safia Poindexter, a sophomore and vice president of the Black Student Union (BSU), commented on her collaboration with the student body and the openness it has provided to her experience at the university

“It’s just been really fun to interact with all the other Black students on campus,” Poindexter said. “You get ideas from them, you work with them, we play games, whether they relate to our culture or not. It’s just a really safe space to be who you are.”

Active on socials as well as DeHUB — DePaul’s designated campus engagement platform — groups like the BSU rely on student-led efforts alongside collaborations with faculty and staff, as all sides work together to organize events year-round.

Ava Francis, program manager of the Black Cultural Center, values her job for its deep ties to the Black student experience. Playing the part of advisor, Francis said she often dons a separate hat as counselor to a student population needing to vent their thoughts.

“I become a point person for a lot of students when they’re in distress,” Francis said. “I’ve had students come to me with housing concerns, with financial worries, with family, relationship, or student org issues. Me and the other program managers of the various centers tend to be that first point because they know us, they trust us, they’ve seen our faces.”

After graduating in May 2022 from Texas A&M, Francis would land in Chicago, starting at DePaul in August of the same year. 

Francis identified the school for its status as a predominantly white institution (PWI) and said being available for any and all interactions with students has remained at the top of her mind.

These same ideals are reinforced through leaders across campus, as Savannah Parker, senior and president of the DePaul University Association of Black Journalists (DUABJ), promotes her own organization while collaborating with others.

“At the end of the day, my goal is to set a foundation of what Black student involvement on campus can look like,” Parker said. “To say, these are the ways that we can be involved, that we’re a part of uplifting fellow black organizations.”

DUABJ hosted a general body meeting on Feb 6. to introduce students to the association and the prospects of future involvement with the group. The organization would also cosponsor a panel on Feb 8, hosting staff and professors in a discussion on the role of journalism regarding topics of formerly incarcerated individuals reacclimating to society. 

Other ongoing events can be followed on their socials in addition to DeHUB.

As BSU and DUABJ help represent DePaul’s Black students, other organizations and departments across campus share in their efforts. Groups such as the Sankofa Black Student Formation, Black Law Student Association and DePaul’s Center for Black Diaspora act as available resources for students to reach out to and join throughout the academic year.

“I tell students all the time, you have more power to make changes happen if you guys worked in a collective than I have as a staff member,” Francis said. “This university is paying me but you’re paying the university and so if you need changes to happen, if you want to make a push, you have every right to do so.”

Celebrating Black history and the diversity that lies within, February will be lined with events and activities for students and staff to stay active in. But in honoring the month, remaining conscious and connected to the Black experience is a year-long cause, from one February to the next. 

“Promotion is everything, but for some reason, there’s this idea that BSU is only closed off to Black students,” Poindexter said. “We know our Black student body are going to come but we want all students to come out here to learn, to get comfortable in our culture, in our organization.”

BSU is hosting various events throughout the month, including a gala Feb. 16 from 6–8:30 p.m. in room 120AB of the Lincoln Park campus student center.

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