ALANA Center opens Black History Month Celebrations

Image courtesy of Michael J. Okoniewski.

In celebration of the first day of Black History Month (BHM), the Jeh Vincent Johnson ALANA Cultural Center invited students and community members on Wednesday, Feb. 1 to celebrate Black life and culture. 


According to Mareme Fall ’25, a Programming Intern at the JVJ African-American/Black, Latino, Asian and Native American (ALANA) Cultural Center, “The BHM kickoff was planned months in advance, with efforts from BSU, ASU, and SOCA leadership, ALANA center staff and interns, and many other co-sponsors.”


The Center hosted two celebrations, the first at the ALANA Center in the morning at 10 a.m. and the second in the evening at 6 p.m. in the Villard Room. According to Fall, “The program consisted of incredible performances, including a steel drum set, poems, songs and a dance, as well as thoughtful remarks given by students and professors. After the program was over, we got to eat great food in wonderful company.”


According to Amanda Cora, the Program Manager at the ALANA Center, “The program included a welcome address from the student leaders, reading of land and Black Lives Matter acknowledgements, a moment of silence for the Black lives lost, a song performance by Mareme Fall, remarks from Professor Sydullah and a closing address by the student leaders.”


Image courtesy of Amanda Cora.


Cora added, “There were many highlights in the performances that took place. I am thankful to all of the performers who shared their talents with us.”


Carl Webster ’25, another ALANA Center Programming Intern, said Wednesday’s celebration was just a piece of what is to come later this month. “The event was enriching,” he said. “On display, there were Black artifacts, recipes and flags representing the African diaspora. The steel pan performance was definitely a highlight, as well as a song performed by Nathan Johnson.”


Director of the ALANA Center Nicole Beveridge said this month’s activities will focus on Black Excellence, past and present legacies, dialogue and expression. She said, “The programming for Black History Month 2023 seeks to invite students and campus partners to dream big at Vassar College as we transform our dreams and visions into a reality.”


According to Dean of Student Growth and Engagement Wendy Maragh Taylor, “The ALANA Center Director Nicole Beveridge was proactive about reaching out across the campus and to alums to ensure that programming is in partnership with students, faculty, administrators and alums. And so, Black History Month is a college-wide effort. That matters.”


The JVJ ALANA Center will host a number of other speakers and events this month and throughout the semester, according to Fall. She wrote in a statement, “Through the month of February, there will be a STEM panel, Black solidarity dinner and a keynote speaker on intersectionality, all of which have been and will continue to be publicized by the ALANA center and orgs.”

Image courtesy of Amanda Cora.

Taylor added, “It’s been a wonderful beginning of Black History Month—seeing our student leaders from ASU, BSU and SOCA lead out in the way they did at the Garden to Celebrate Black Lives, and then being present that evening at the Kickoff event that the ALANA Center partnered on with others to organize. That’s been so important.”


President Elizabeth Bradley, too, enjoyed the Wednesday celebrations and hopes to attend future celebrations this month. She said, “I am very excited about the activities this year—from the opening in the Garden for the Celebration of Black Lives, to the STEM panel, to the guest speaker. The activities inspire us to take time and reflect, and then work toward a more equitable and inclusive future on this campus and beyond.”


There is much to appreciate about the BHM kickoff, and Fall said, “My main takeaway from the event was how important it is to be in community. It was emphasized by many of my peers how grateful they are to have each other to rely on, especially at a PWI, because at the end of the day, all we have is each other.”

She added, “I hope that moving forward, more people in the Vassar community can just show up. I don’t really think it’s asking for much just to pull up to an event—it’s the easiest way to show your support for people.”

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