[quote]I wish I could see more of our white students at our programming.[/quote]

Throughout the month of February, Elon students have participated in a new series of programming inspired by Black History Month. The events were put together by a variety of departments to increase awareness and celebrate the achievements of African Americans.

Although small pockets of organizations and offices have celebrated the month in years past, there has never been a comprehensive set of events devoted to the black history theme, according to Prudence Layne, associate professor of English and creator of the Black History Month Steering Committee. The committee, made up of representatives from key offices around campus and from Elon University School of Law, met throughout the fall to create a theme for the month and a list of goals to accomplish.

The theme they decided on was “black history is everyone’s history.”

“Black History month is not just a celebration by African-Americans or blacks for black people,” Layne said. “It is a part of American history and world history, and it is an invitation for the entire campus community to celebrate the achievements of blacks, not just on this campus but in the country and in the rest of the world.”

Planning of the Black History Month initiative was assigned to African and African-American Studies by Brooke Barnett, the president’s faculty fellow for diversity and global engagement. Because there was no separate budget designated to the month’s programming, AAASE has supplemented it with their own regular operating budget and other organizations and sponsors have contributed out of their own funding.

The Truitt Center for Spiritual and Religious Life brought in speakers for College Chapel, AAASE sponsored an African-American Read-In Day and Book Sale, Elon’s Black Alumni Network held a faculty, staff and alumni mixer and Wall of Famers reception and SUB and SUBLive organized midnight poetry slams, film screenings and live performers.

“Because we have our normal programming that we do, it was how can we work what we already do into the themes that we decided on for Black History Month,” said Robert Dunlap, assistant director of student activities and member of the steering committee.

Although Layne has been pleased with the turnout so far, she said she hopes to see more diverse participation at the upcoming events. She said she particularly would like to see more people partake in the Get on the Black Church Bus series, which allows students, faculty and staff to attend a worship service at a featured church.

“I wish I could see more of our white students at our programming,” she said. “We wish that more of our students who have been curious why, for example, Sundays have been called the most segregated day in the United States would just come and see what happens in some of those churches.”

The programming has received positive feedback from parents, especially of black students, and from alumni, Layne said.

“(The alumni) are really excited to see this really big push and the presence and the programming, even if they haven’t been able to come,” she said.

When the month concludes, the steering committee will meet for a debriefing session to discuss the success of the month and begin planning and assembling the new committee for next year.

“There are plans to, as soon as we’re done, assess how everything went, how we can do better and how we can continue to provide experience to enhance the cultural experience for everyone at Elon,” Dunlap said.

AAASE is not the only department devoted to increasing awareness through a month of events. Women and Gender Studies is coordinating women’s history month, El Centro is coordinating Hispanic heritage month and LGBTQ is coordinating a series of events as well, Layne said.

“There is a greater emphasis on making sure the university acknowledges and celebrates in a really tangible way a lot of the different diverse populations that we have represented on campus,” she said.