Black History Month event celebrates culture and heritage

Deanna Starr


Every February we celebrate Black History Month by either pointing out the individual achievements of African-American men and women over the years, by doing service or by conducting celebrations and gatherings to inform those who might not know much about African-American history. This year, Villanova’s Black Culture Society celebrated by having its first annual Black History Month Event: “Visions of our Heritage” in the Villanova Room. It celebrated African-American history with an opportunity to come together around great food and bring to light information that is not often enough the focus of classrooms of American history. This year the BCS executive board ensured that the night would be filled with dancing, laughs and tribute. 

The evening began with the singing of the Black National Anthem and a performance by Wazobia African dance team. “African-American history did not start during slavery,” Black History Month chair and co-host of the event, Cierra Belin, stated during her opening remarks. Afterwards, four students dressed as African Kings and Queens walked out into the middle of the dance floor, each in attire that embodied the person they were portraying. Deaysha Hines portrayed Queen Hatshepsut, the first female pharaoh in Egypt, Maurice Mitchell was King Hannibal, a renowned war strategist whose tactics were so great that his enemies, the Romans, adopted them, Kalvery Hawkins was Mansa Musa, the West African emperor who was able to acquire $400 billion in his lifetime, making him the richest man in recorded history, and Opeyemi Famakinwa was Egyptian Queen Nefertiti, who ruled during the wealthiest period in Egypt’s history. 

Following the portrayals of these legendary African men and women, poems and biography excerpts were performed, written by Langston Hughes, Phillis Wheatley, George Washington Carver, Maya Angelou, Kristina Kay and Fredrick Douglass, as well as an original poem performed by Nkiambi Sokolo. 

The next portion of the night, titled “Juneteenth,” was an presentation given by Dr. Teresa Nance. She touched upon some of the segments of African-American history that were only half told or told from, what she called the “hunters’ perspective.” The theme of her presentation was that systems produce the results that they create. She demonstrated this by speaking at length about the way in which we have come to known how slaves became free as compared to some of the issues African-Americans face today. She brought to light some common misconceptions about the Emancipation Proclamation as well as the Reconstruction period. 

The latter part of the evening was filled with desserts, dancing and more performances. During intermission, all joined in on the dance floor to do the electric slide, the cha-cha slide and later a soul train line to let loose and enjoy the music. Another performance was given by Ablaze, a hip-hop dance team on campus, and a speech was given by 2014 Villanova graduate Tony Chennault. He shared his personal experience of finding his purpose in life while also experiencing one of the greatest tragedies in his life, the loss of his mother and brother. 

Chennault reminded the audience that socioeconomic statuses do not have to limit one from achieving his or her goals. His speech was preceded by a video of some family and friends of BCS members who were alive during the Civil Rights Movement. They were able to recount the emotions they felt and even their exact locations during some of the biggest moments in history.     

One of the participants shared a story about how she was treated in the movie theater when she was growing up. She had ordered a hot dog from the concession stand and when she returned to her seat she had noticed that the workers had simply split one hot dog in half and placed it in two rolls. In her story, she emphasized that being treated in such a way was not uncommon, and that only the Lord knows what else they could have done to the hot dog she paid for that day. 

Other participants recounted the moment they found out that Dr. Martin Luther King was shot and their reactions  when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. These moments were so impactful that all of the participants were able to remember even the minor details of what occurred during that time. 

The event was filled with a diverse population of people, and smiles and laughter resonated throughout the Villanova Room. Black Culture Society gave Villanovans the opportunity to unite with an enhanced understanding and appreciation of a rich cultural history.