Black History Month at Westfield State

In Living Color: Westfield State celebrates Black History Month, bridges racial gap

“I hope to bring awareness and a different perspective,” Richeme said. “Black History Month is not just about Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, and Ferguson. It’s more than just African American history as well. My hope is for attendees to see beyond the typical themes of the month and learn while enjoying themselves. Each program has its own definition, unique style, and is educational.” [Oil painting from exhibit]

Westfield State University will celebrate Black History Month by hosting a month-long celebration of events ranging from poetry performances, panel discussions, and interactive experiences.

Since 1974, Westfield State has held special events during the month of February dedicated to informing students, faculty, and staff as well as the community about the importance of black history, culture, and traditions. Black History Month is organized by a committee of faculty and staff.

For the first time, Black History Month celebrations are themed this year. The theme is “In Living Color,” a play on the 90’s sketch comedy of the same name, which utilized comedy, fashion, satire, and other media to captivate audiences. Black History Month Committee Chair Ashiah Richeme, staff assistant in Residential Life, said it was important for her to organize a variety of events including some contemporary discussions.

Director of Diversity, Inclusion, and Student Activities Jessika Murphy said the plethora of events allow students to understand the time table of racial injustice: “We want to bridge the gap, to show where we as a country started, notice the positive changes we’ve made, and to look forward to ways will still need to grow,” Murphy said.

While the university has held events around Black History Month for 40 years, it recently began expanding cultural awareness programs, including its first recognition of Latino Heritage Month last fall.

“Part of our job as educators is to provide students with the opportunity to learn beyond their comfort zone, which includes learning about different cultures,” Murphy said.

Community Events for Black History Month at Westfield State:

  • Through February 28 – The Arno Maris Art Gallery will feature the exhibit “Ocular Amblyopia,” works by Andrae Green. An artist’s reception will be held on Thursday, February 5 from 5:30-7:30 p.m. with a snow date of February 12.
  • Thursday, February 5, 5:30 p.m. – There will be a screening of “Dear White People,” which follows a group of African American students as they navigate campus life and racial politics. Film screening and discussion will be held in the Owl’s Nest. 
  • Tuesday, February 10, 6:30 p.m. – “Dispelling the Myths of Black Greek Letter Organizations,” a dynamic conversation on the current state of Black Greek Letter Organizations, will be held in the Owl’s Nest.
  • Wednesday, February 11, 7:00 p.m. – “Voices Beyond Bondage,” is a poetry reading of 150 poems culled from burgeoning black-owned newspapers of the era held in Scanlon Banquet Hall.
  • Monday, February 16, 6:30 p.m. – “Black Girls Rock,” is a night of celebration to acknowledge women of color who have embolden Westfield State’s campus. The celebration will be in the University Hall Lobby.
  • Wednesday, February 18, 7:00 p.m. – “Soul Café,” a night of expression of art for students, faculty, and staff including jazz ensembles, poetry, dance, step, and song will be held in the Owl’s Nest.
  • Sunday, February 22, 2 p.m. – A “Tribute to WEB DuBois,” Westfield State’s Chorus, Gospel Choir, and So Seductive Step Team honor the civil rights activist at St. John’s Church in Springfield.
  • Monday, February 23 – An all-day event, “Black Solidarity Day,” is a day of solidarity, recognition, and unity. Participants are encouraged to wear black to symbolize unity, progression, and an end to racial oppression.
  • Tuesday, February 24, 7:00 p.m. – “It’s Weave not WEAVED,” an open dialogue on black beauty and the negative effects of image-based media, will be held in the University Hall Lobby.
  • Tuesday, February 24, 7:00-9:00 p.m. – “Tunnel of Oppression,” an interactive experience that targets issues of privilege, power, and social justice, will be held in Scanlon Banquet Hall.
  • Wednesday, February 25, 8-10 p.m. – Night two of “Tunnel of Oppression” will be held in Scanlon Banquet Hall.
  • Thursday, February 26, 7:00-9:00 p.m. – Night three of “Tunnel of Oppression” will be held in Scanlon Banquet Hall.

All of the above events are free and open to the public. For more information about Black History Month events, please visit www.westfield.ma.edu/bhm.


About Westfield State University

Founded in 1838 by Horace Mann, Westfield State is an education leader committed to providing every generation of students with a learning experience built on its founding principle as the first public co-educational college in America to offer an education without barrier to race, gender or economic status. This spirit of innovative thinking and social responsibility is forged in a curriculum of liberal arts and professional studies that creates a vital community of engaged learners who become confident, capable individuals prepared for leadership and service to society.

–  Submitted by Molly Watson

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