By Catherine Gonzalez
On Wednesday, the Pan-African Flag Raising Ceremony at Trenton Hall launched the College’s celebration of Black History Month. This ceremony is an annual tradition that symbolizes the freedom and progression of those within the African Diaspora.
The event began in room 123 of Trenton Hall where both faculty and students delivered speeches to a crowd of in-person and online listeners, the latter of which attended on Zoom.
Larissa Boughton, a senior psychology major and the vice president of the College’s Black Student Union (BSU), provided opening remarks thanking attendees for coming to the event. Her opening remarks also touched on the Pan-African flag’s representation of Black culture, Black thought and Black excellence in its colors.
Boughton continued by talking about the recurring ill-treatment of Black people in America.
“America’s progression is stunted so long as Black people are oppressed,” Boughton said.
Boughton previewed what Black History Month will look like on-campus for the rest of February.
“The theme for our month here is ‘Radical Love,’” Boughton said.
BSU’s president, senior philosophy and psychology double major Victoria Desir, later delved into the meaning of ‘radical love,’ juxtaposing it with the mainstream glorification of exclusionary romantic love.
“‘Radical love’ is communal love,” Desir said. “When practiced, we use it in many different aspects of our lives.”
According to Desir, “radical love” encompasses fighting for the freedom of others, being engaged in the world beyond one’s personal social groups and learning about the struggles of others. She also related this idea specifically to Black History Month as well, inviting listeners to act upon radical love throughout the month.
“‘Radical love’ reminds us of the unquestionable humanity and dignity of Black people,” Desir said.
BSU’s marketing chair on their associate board, junior communications major Jazailis Gual, sang the Black National Anthem, which responded to Boughton’s earlier point about Black oppression in America with words of perseverance.
“Let us march on till victory is won,” Gual said.
Another performance at the ceremony was a recitation of the poem “We Wear the Mask” by Paul Laurence Dunbar, done by James A. Felton III, the College’s inaugural vice president for Inclusive Excellence. He related its themes to college students who feel forced to hide their true identities for personal protection, especially Black students.
“Let us hold our heads high, despite the masks we wear, to honor those who have worn the masks before us,” Felton said.
The verbal portion of the ceremony concluded with an address from President Kathryn Foster, who asserted that, although students tend to learn little about Black History Month in their K-12 education, it is still relevant to their lives today.
“As we are celebrating Black history, we are living Black history,” Foster said. “These moments build our nation.”
The ceremony concluded with the raising of the Pan-African flag outside of Trenton Hall, kicking off Black History Month.
More information about the College’s Black History Month events can be found here.