SUNY Oswego hosts fewer Black History Month events, but its community does not

Performers dance at the Black Student Union’s Variety Show held on February 23, 2024. Photo by: Leila LaJoie.

OSWEGO, N.Y. — SUNY Oswego is full of diversity. However, there was less of an initiative to showcase it for the campus, according to some students who said they noticed this with the celebration of Black History Month.

Through February, students, faculty, and staff previously had more events that they could attend to celebrate or become informed about during the month. This year, there have been fewer options. Whether it be in-person or online, less events have become noticeable among campus. 

“It’s been very quiet on campus. I’ll be honest about that in terms of Black History Month, I feel like most of the noise comes from us,” said Roxana Dolores, member of the multicultural sorority the Tenacious Kumi Chapter at SUNY Oswego.

With fewer celebrations on campus this year for Black History Month, Dolores makes a point, as the organizations, unions, and clubs do help to still spread the diversity and showcase the importance of Black individuals.

Dolores’ sorority, the Tenacious Kumi Chapter, is the first multicultural sorority in the nation and often will work with other organizations on campus to ensure diversity. Their most recent way was attending and performing at another organization on campus, the Black Student Union’s Variety Show. There Dolores performed with Analese Espino from the Dianaia Chapter, a multicultural sorority at the University of Rochester.

Besides the Tenacious Kumi Chapter, the Black Student Union, IMAGE Step Team, African American Males Empowerment Network, and Bold Black Beauties are some other organizations on campus that have put on events and showcased Black History Month and Black importance in general.

The Black Student Union hosted a variety show which many organizations also perform in, but have also hosted a dinner, meetings, and an event for Black Appreciation Day. So, as students might feel like university is not bringing more events for Black History Month, attending these events or getting involved with these organizations, clubs, and unions could help make students feel supported and informed.

There are other ways that students, faculty, and staff could be supported and informed. Such as through The James A. Triandiflou Institute for Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Transformative Practice at SUNY Oswego. The Triandiflou Institute’s platform is focused on helping with social justice, equality, equity, discrimination, microaggression, and civil discourse. The platform includes an interactive calendar initiative as well, the Oz Inclusivity Playbook. 

The playbook, “maps engagement and observations of different social identities and provides offerings to connect educational opportunities for students, faculty, and staff about events happening across the campus and in the Syracuse areas,” said in an email from Terrian Garvis, the interim associate director for the institute.

Garvis also said that this year the institution worked with Black Student Union, MLK Committee, and other organizations to create a Black History Month calendar through Instagram Stories. It will host the third annual Oz Equity Challenge (a three-week asynchronous challenge to educate individuals) and Break the Silence (an event in which there is discussion on how you can use art and other forms to advocate).

Besides these programs, students can also be supported and informed through The Grand Challenge. This program gives the initiative to look into problematic social and global issues. The challenge will usually choose a three-year focus group to do for a few years. The current focus is “Race, Racism, and Social Justice.”

As this has been the topic, students, faculty, and professional staff can participate in talking about these topics whether in or out of the classroom and submit an application for a grant. The grants will range from $50 to $350 and will be available to help with course assignments, programming, volunteerism, and more. 

These grants have been used for events such as the Caribbean Voice Series: Racialization, Migration, and Afrofuturism. As well as the American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter for the Ta-Nehisi Coates visit this past fall semester. As for when the spring semester ends, the topic of the Grand Challenge will change, but there will still be events in place for this semester.

“The next scheduled program to receive Grand Challenge funding will bring Native American filmmaker Katsitsionni Fox to campus to discuss her documentary Under the Husk,” said in an email by Anneke McEvoy, associate director of the Triandiflou Institute. 

With all of these options, it seems that the students, staff, and faculty were able to continue to find ways to support and inform the community.