Richard Robinson, a member of the Black Student Union (BSU) at Eastern Mennonite University, helps decorate campus for 2015 Black History Month. The campus hosts a variety of events over the next two months, with The Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. Week Jan. 11-18, followed by February's Black History Month.

Campus gears up for MLK Jr. Week celebrations and Black History Month

An abundance of cultural, educational, and interactive events about American black history and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. will take place in January and February at Eastern Mennonite University.

MLK Jr. Celebration Week from Jan. 11-16 engages his legacy with events about racial equality, labor rights, pacifism, Christian activism, and community and relationship building.

This year’s theme, “For Such a Time as This,” comes from the Bible verse Esther 4:14, in which Esther’s cousin Mordecai convinces the young queen to intervene on behalf of her persecuted people.

Black History Month follows in February, with a host of events both new and traditional planned by Black Student Union (BSU) co-presidents Tae Dews and Oksana Kittrell. The month, first officially designated Black History Month in 1976 by President Gerald R. Ford, grew out of a week of recognition which coincided with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.

“My favorite part of Black History Month is bringing awareness to our campus about black history because I believe that we have been shielded from the truth about the history of black Americans in the U.S., and that we are not getting the whole story,” says Kittrell. “It is a story that needs to be heard.”

MLK Jr. Celebration Week Events

  • Jan. 11, 4:30-6 p.m. “Mindfully Multicultural” Workshop I, Martin Chapel. Join licensed professional counselors Tom Miller and Dr. Greg Czyszczon for an afternoon thoughtfully addressing the problems and potential of multiculturalism.
  • Jan. 12, 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Mix-it-up Lunch, Northlawn Dining Hall. Converse with people from a variety of backgrounds.
  • Jan. 13, 10 a.m. Chapel Reading Circles, various locations. Gather to read and discuss various sermons and speeches by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., facilitated by BSU members and campus faculty and staff.
  • Jan. 13, 5 p.m. Service Project. The Multicultural Student Services office will lead various service projects in Harrisonburg’s historic Northeast Neighborhood.
  • Jan. 14, 10 a.m.-12:15 p.m. Visit to Harriet Tubman Cultural Center and Tyrone Sprague’s Barbershop. The Harriet Tubman Cultural Center is an educational and advocacy museum about slavery, the Underground Railroad and its most famous conductor. Tyrone Sprague’s Barbershop is an MLK Jr. week mainstay of informal racial education in downtown Harrisonburg. Transportation leaves from the front of University Commons at 9:30 a.m.

    Musicians at the 2015 celebration chapel.
  • Jan. 15, 11 a.m. Community Church Service, Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church with senior pastor The Rev. Dr. Chinita Richardson, who is also an educator, paralegal, travel agency owner, ex-offender support program founder, advocate and mother. Attendees will join the Bethel congregation as Richardson leads worship at this “word and love-centered ministry designed to evangelize the lost, equip and empower the people of God, who connects to the community as well as the world.” Transportation leaves the Campus Center at 10:30 a.m. Followed by a community lunch at John Wesley United Methodist Church.
  • Jan. 16, 10-10:15 a.m. Solidarity March, Thomas Plaza. A march preceding chapel demonstrates solidarity with King and his intentions for a just society and diverse unity.
  • Jan. 16, 10:15-11:15 a.m. MLK Jr. Celebration Chapel, Lehman Auditorium. The Rev. Dr. Chinita Richardson leads chapel in “a celebration of the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. through praise and worship, featuring the EMU Gospel Choir.” Followed by a talkback in Common Grounds.
  • Jan. 25, 4:30-6 p.m. “Values and Unthought Knowns” Workshop II, Martin Chapel. Czyszczon and Miller continue the workshop series started with Mindfully Multicultural Jan. 11.

Black History Month Events

Town Hall on Race was held in Common Grounds on February 4th, 20
The first Town Hall on Race, which included students, faculty and staff, was held in 2016. (Photo by Andrew Strack)
  • Feb. 6, 7:30-9:30 p.m. Showing of 13TH, Common Grounds. The 2016 documentary by Ava DuVernay which “challenges your ideas about the intersection of race, justice, and mass incarceration in the United States,” according to the New York Times. The documentary earned Best Director, Best Documentary Feature and Best Political Documentary at the 2016 Critic’s Choice Documentary Awards.
  • Feb. 8, 10 a.m. Chapel, Lehman Auditorium with civil rights activist and speaker Bob Zellner, who grew up in a KKK-affiliated family in Alabama and joined the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in college. He went on to grassroots organize for civil rights across the South and participated in the 1963 March on Washington, the site of Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech.
  • Feb 8, 4:30-6 p.m. “Who Got Next” Workshop III. Czyszczon and Miller continue the workshop series started with Mindfully Multicultural.
  • Feb. 9, 7:30 p.m. Town Hall on Race, Common Grounds. “This time will provide space where we would focus on issues that we face as students and faculty of color pertaining to diversity and race relations on campus,” says Dews.
  • Feb. 15, 8-9:30 p.m. Poetry Slam BHM Edition, Black Box Theater. The slam carries on the Black Student Union’s precedent of inviting attendees to “share poetry, spoken word, song, or any other form of expression! BSU encourages you to be yourself and just share!”
  • Feb. 16, 9-10 p.m. Hangouts, Game Room. BSU will gather informally for a time of friendship and discussion.
  • Feb. 22, 10 a.m. Chapel, Lehman Auditorium led by BSU members under the theme of “Hotep,” an ancient Egyptian word which most closely translates to “peace.”