The formal celebration of Black history began in 1926 with Negro History Week in mid-February. Eventually, it expanded to the entire month, which is when Thomas Nelson has been celebrating it. But this year, the College will be celebrating Black history the entire academic year, beginning Aug. 23 when a preview show is posted on the Thomas Nelson website.
“I think that is wonderful,” said Debra Godette, a student and president of the College's Phi Theta Kappa honor society chapter (pictured here). “In my opinion, I think we should celebrate Black history every month of the year, as well as the history of all minorities. We can’t limit it to February. First of all, there’s not enough time. And Black history happens all throughout the year, not just that one month.”
Those sentiments, along with current events, were factors in the decision, said Alicia Riley, the Special Events coordinator for the College.
“History is always changing, and with the global situations and movements just even occurring within Hampton Roads, we want to show that Thomas Nelson is aware,” she said.
Riley is on several committees, including the Cultural Affairs Committee, and works with numerous student groups. She said expanding the celebration of Black history sends a message to the entire College community.
“Our underlying message is ‘Thomas Nelson together.’ So we are showing … that we stand together,” she said.
Godette, who is from North Carolina, said she remembers learning about Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and a few other leaders in the Black community when she was in high school.
“There are so many more that we are never taught in traditional schools,” she said, noting significant change could occur by discussing Black history for more than just one month.
Riley said even the recent news of having a Black woman on a presidential ticket plays into the change.
“A lot of our conversation and our viewpoints you’re going to be seeing are based on now, what is occurring,” she said.
In the video set to go live Aug. 23, a number of students will be discussing what “together” means to them. In addition, there will be footage of Fort Monroe and Hampton, as well as photos and footage from historical events in Montgomery, Ala., and other places around the country.
Here is the list of events scheduled to celebrate Black history throughout the academic year at Thomas Nelson. However, events are subject to change.
Aug. 23: Black History celebration preview.
Sept. 1: Food: The Universal Conversation Cultural and Generational
Sept. 23: Workshop called Love Over Hate: Breaking Stereotypes
Sept. 29: Paint project
Oct. 8: Civil Rights: Finding a Voice
Oct. 20: Trivia challenge
Nov. 11: Students interview Tuskegee Airmen
Jan. 18: Art show
Jan. 20: Presidential Leadership Awards
Jan. 28: Poets, Music and the Stage: Nina Simone
Feb. 10: Black history documentary; African-American table stories.
Feb. 11: Poets, Music and the Stage: James Baldwin
Feb. 25: Poets, Music and the Stage: Lauryn Hill
March 23: Service project: Smithsonian Museum of African-American history.