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Black People United host events on campus to celebrate black culture

This month Washington State University Vancouver’s Black People United club will host several events in observance of Black History Month, a tradition in the U.S. since 1976.

Jasmine Rucker, the president of BPU, said that Black History Month exists because “history has constantly been whitewashed.” She said that not enough light is given to people of color and that most Americans fail to go beyond slavery when discussing the past of African American citizens.

Rucker said that the goal of Black History Month is to move away from categorizing people as descended from either slaves or slave owners.

Airriana Jasper, the director of public relations at BPU, said the club wants to take advantage of the entire month in order to address the full spectrum of black culture.

“In a perfect world we wouldn’t have Black History Month,” Rucker said. “In a perfect world every single culture would be represented effectively in history. We are not there yet.”

This will be BPU’s second year hosting a workshop called Black History in Action. According to Rucker, 180 people attended the event last year. BPU members are hoping for a similar turnout this year.

Last year’s event was marked by great diversity, Rucker said, and this year the club is hoping for a receptive audience regardless of the turnout.

Rucker said that the goal of the event is not to criticize other identities or cultures. Instead, the club aims to create a fun and open learning environment. She went on to describe Black History in Action’s progressive focus and goal of facilitating an open dialogue where everyone feels comfortable.

The “action” workshop will be held in the Firstenburg Student Commons on Feb. 23, starting at 5 p.m. An African dance troupe will lead off the event by highlighting some of the far-flung roots of African American culture. Sky Wilson, an English instructor, will give a keynote address titled “Our Historical Burden to Recharge the Tradition of Black Liberation.” Food will be catered by Po’Shines Cafe De La Soul.

Guests will also have the opportunity to participate in a jeopardy game. Throughout the month, BPU will be posting facts on its Facebook page that will then serve as answers to the game.

The event is free and open to everyone, but the club encourages students to bring Cougar Food Pantry donations. The Cougar Food Pantry is a free resource for WSU students in need of food. Requests for food are anonymous.

The club will also be streaming “I’m Not a Racist…am I?” a documentary that follows a diverse group of 12 New York City teenagers and their families. The documentary will be streamed in FSC at 5 p.m. on Thursday.

Jasper said the goal of the documentary is to start a dialogue about racism. According to Jasper, it is important to consider the question posed by the documentary: where are people as far as racism goes? The film’s director, Catherine Wigginton Green, will lead the audience in a workshop after the screening.

Last Thursday, BPU kicked off the month with a workshop titled “How to be an Ally.” Cynthia Cooper, professor of molecular genetics, facilitated a panel discussion with BPU members who shared their experience on campus as students of color and gave tips on how the student body can show support to the black community.

“We need to normalize blackness,” emphasized BPU vice president Jose Scott. About 30 people attended the event.

The official statement of Black People United says that the club “supports and empowers Black students, staff and faculty members by having gatherings, initiating discussions and hosting events that focus on the Black and African American community.”

Rucker said that one of the purposes of the club is to build a support community for black students. According to the Office of Student Affairs, 3% of students on campus are black. However, the club also seeks to provide a learning experience to those who do not understand diversity.

“It is important that we have our club to show that support,” said Rucker, “but it is also important that we have our club to be that voice on campus so people don’t forget that we are here.”

According to Jasper, that is the mission of any cultural or ethnic club. She said that she thinks WSU Vancouver is a very progressive campus. Even though “hiccups” happen, Jasper said the administration currently in place is supportive.

Rucker said BPU meetings are open to anyone who wishes to engage in a “reasonable and sensible” dialogue.

All Black History Month events are organized by BPU with funding and partnership from the diversity council, ASWSUV and the Student Diversity Center. For more information, please contact BPU at van.club.bpu@wsu.edu.

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