Wittenberg’s Black History Month programming wrapped up on Saturday, Feb. 26, with a focus on mental health. A collaboration between the Tiger Counseling Center and Concerned Black Students (CBS), “Minds like Mine” featured two guest speakers leading a discussion on “Mental Health in the Black Community.”
Other highlights of the month’s programming included the CBS Walkout reenactment on Feb. 18. Beginning at the Campus Seal, more than 50 students, staff, and faculty members walked to Founders Pub in the Benham-Pence Student Center for an open discussion. Three days later on Feb. 21, Wittenberg then welcomed marketing expert and industry leader John Shumate, class of 1999 and current member of the University’s Board of Directors, to campus. Shumate, who serves as vice president of global brand marketing, Champion Brand, at Hanesbrands Inc. in the Winston-Salem, North Carolina area, discussed how to navigate and network while being Black in corporate America, as well as the importance of making connections in one’s field. He also brought a few gifts for those in attendance.
Throughout the month of February, the William A. McClain Center for Diversity also ran a Black history social media campaign featuring an influential leader in the Black community. Joining the McClain Center in providing content were CBS students, the Office of Student Involvement, the Tiger Counseling Center, and Wittenberg’s Diversity Advisory Committee (DAC).
Additionally, CBS was responsible for developing the programming for Martin Luther King Jr. Week at Wittenberg beginning Jan. 17 to commemorate the life and legacy of the civil rights leader. CBS hosted several special events designed to start conversations on campus.
The events across the week had an important purpose for CBS in conjunction with remembering Dr. King, according to CBS Event Chair Brooklyn Thomas, class of 2025 from Columbus, Ohio. They helped to show “students and staff alike that we are here. We matter, our presence matters, and we've come a long way with change, but there's a lot more to be done even still today."
Programming included a showing of Selma, the critically acclaimed 2014 film about the voting rights march led by Dr. King in 1965 from Selma, Alabama, to the capital city of Montgomery. This film would set the tone for the conversations that would take place throughout the week, including with alumni whom CBS invited back. The event was marked by discussions of change—both within CBS and at the University. Everyone present shared how Wittenberg has changed over time and what changes still need to be made to ensure students feel safe and wanted. Alumni want to continue returning to Witt to support these changes, as well.
Also during the week CBS partnered with the student campus event planning organization, Union Board, to invite notable poet Kyla Jenée Lacey to campus for a Spoken Word event. Lacey delivered impactful performances of many of her poems on the subject of white privilege, feminism, and more. Those in attendance were also invited to share their own work and stories.
Later in the week, the McClain Center for Diversity sponsored Breaking Chains during which students participated in an activity to process the social changes happening at Wittenberg and in the world right now. This, again, was a conversation centered around change and what students and the University can continue to do to make positive changes on campus. These concluding events also focused specifically on allowing people to share their diverse experiences and talk about subjects that they might feel uncomfortable dealing with or on a regular day. Most importantly, while these experiences were shared, the community was there to hold each other up.
As Thomas said, CBS wanted people to walk away from these events "with all the stress off their shoulders or with a new friend they didn't have before.” Thomas added that there are issues that aren't always talked about without having the platforms like this to do so.
The week finished with a CBS-sponsored kickball event, where students joined together inside The Steemer to play games, listen to music, and eat pizza.
CBS hopes to continue providing an outlet for students and staff to keep having these important conversations so as to make campus a better place for all. Thomas also hopes that by hosting these events and conversations, other students will see that CBS students are here for them.
“Whatever they need, they can come to us and know that they have a community. And that we can only be as strong as they make it."
By Isabella M. Fiorito ’23