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The Booker T. Washington Wedding House is one of the historical sites featured in the virtual Black History of Athens Tour.

OU celebrates Black History Month with virtual programming

Ohio University is going all out this February for a virtual celebration of Black History Month 2021, making it easier than ever to get involved. 

This is OU’s first year going all virtual due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and there are many ways people can participate. A virtual celebration gives not only OU students, faculty and alumni the opportunity to get involved, but also the Athens community at large. 

OU’s celebration is centered around this year’s national theme of Black History Month, “The Black Family.” 

“All of [OU’s] programs look at and celebrate the Black family in its multifaceted, eclectic way,” Winsome Chunnu-Brayda, director of OU’s Multicultural Center, said.

So far this February, OU has hosted the Black Excellence Panel, a networking and social event featuring Black individuals who have found professional success, and a guest lecture with Cleveland multi-genre artist and radio host Vince Robinson. Other events included Black Jeopardy, a MLK Interfaith Dialogue featuring clergymen and women from various religions and more. 

Wednesday, Feb. 17’s event, A Conversation with Donna Brazile, will be on Zoom at 5 p.m. and features Daytime Emmy Award-winner Donna Brazile, who is the former DNC chair and first woman to run a national presidential campaign. Chunnu-Brayda explained that asking Brazile to speak possessed a timely element, discussing what the Black vote means for the Black family. 

“Because we just had our first Black south Asian vice president, (and) because of what Stacey Abrams has done with flipping Georgia, we felt it would be a great year to talk about the Black vote and what that means for the Black family,” Chunnu-Brayda said. “We wanted a Black speaker, someone who has been involved in politics for a long time, understands the Black community, the historic challenges surrounding the Black vote and can speak to that.”

In addition to Brazile’s event, there are many virtual lectures and conversations covering a wide variety of topics throughout the month, including The First Annual Ted Rose Lecture Series, NAACP’S Black History Month Series and many more which can be found at OU’s Black History Month’s Event Page.

In a year plagued by unrest and protest following the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Casey Goodson Jr. and other Black persons at the hands of law enforcement, Chunnu-Brayda feels it has been nothing short of a tumultuous year for the Black community.

“We talk about our country as this beacon on the hill, this place where other countries aspire to be like our democracy, [but] not every one of our citizens feel that way, and that includes the Black community,” Chunnu-Brayda said. “We want to make sure we are highlighting that there are groups in our union that are still not enjoying everything our founding fathers would have hoped they would be by this time.”

Chunnu-Brayda believes the best way to get involved for Black History Month is to come out, listen, learn and reflect.  

“If [people] do not come out, they won’t get the message, and that is the important piece,” Chunnu-Brayda said. 

In addition to the various series of lectures, OU offers a Black History of Athens Tour which highlights many historical sites around Athens such as the Booker T. Washington Wedding House and the Templeton-Blackburn Alumni Memorial Auditorium, where Martin Luther King Jr. spoke in 1959. 

People can celebrate Black History Month by doing some personal research as well. Alden Library is providing an Anti-Racism and Black Lives Matter Resources collection, which includes links to podcasts, streaming films, popular and academic articles and other web sources. Anyone can suggest additions to the list here.

Michele Jennings, art librarian at Alden Library, knows there is a wide variety of media and something for everyone on this list, including if one would want to delve deeper into this year’s theme.

“My understanding is that the theme is about Black families literally, but also about the Black family as a symbol of the diaspora, of the multiplicity of Black experiences,” Jennings said in an email. “So I hope that this list offers some views into that – in particular, the sections titled ‘Black voices and stories’ and ‘Intersectionality.’”

Another way OU is encouraging people to celebrate Black History Month is through film and other media. Lorraine Wochna runs the twitter page @watchfilmsOU, which is active year round and recommends media available through the Alden Library website, focusing this month on BIPOC involved projects.

In addition, Wochna is the subject librarian for the School of Film, Theater, Dept. of English and African American Studies at Alden Library and is responsible for obtaining sources for the African American Studies resource guide. 

“I personally think everyone should be required to take an African American Studies class,” Wochna said.

The guide has a seemingly infinite amount of information and resources, which include subscriptions and archives to multiple Black-owned and operated historical newspapers like the Chicago Defender and the Pittsburgh Courier. Wochna believes it is important to look at historical events through the lens of an African American newspaper rather than a more white mainstream newspaper. 

Chunnu-Brayda, Jennings and Wochna encourage Athens residents and OU students, faculty and staff to get involved in as many ways as they can during Black History Month.

“We’re just happy that we're still able to do it even though we're online and that people are excited,” Chunnu-Brayda said. 


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