By Thomas Moran | Staff Writer
First decreed a national observance under President Ford in 1976, Black History Month has since become internationally recognized as a time dedicated to the celebration and education of black history. The Department of Multicultural Affairs heads many of Baylor’s black history month events and traditions every year and have already held several successful events this February.
Among this month’s events, Baylor’s NAACP chapter is teaming up with Student Activities and the Department of Multicultural Affairs to host showings of Marvel’s new superhero film, Black Panther, which features an all-black cast and director.
Maggie Griffin is the coordinator of creative services for the multicultural affairs office. In her view, the goal of the department is to help students grow in appreciation for their own heritage and better understand other cultures — a goal most evidently exemplified through events like the Black Panther screening.
“Our hope is that students are hearing different voices and learning different cultures all throughout the year, but in this particular month, especially ones that are celebrated nationally, it’s important that we are taking time to hear voices that haven’t been heard of much and voices that are not the majority,” Griffin said.
In the past and still today, the media has not properly or fairly represented black people or history and the film Black Panther will help bring an end to that negative cycle, Griffin said. The film is a positive step toward increased black representation in powerful roles in pop culture.
The film features well-known actors and actresses including Chadwick Boseman, Lupita Nyong’o and Michael B. Jordan.
“Black Panther is already making news because for so long, people of color have not seen someone who looks like them featured as a superhero,” Griffin said. “They’ve had roles that are often times subservient or painting the picture of history and this one really speaks to the future.”
Plano senior Annette Christie is Baylor’s NAACP chapter’s secretary and chair of Black History Month. She has been working closely with the Department of Multicultural Affairs to host events that promote education and celebration of black history as a part of the chapter’s “Black Love Week.” A Black Love Forum, Black Heritage Banquet, and Fashion show are among the events lead by the NAACP chapter this week.
The movie is a huge milestone because, beyond being just an engaging action film, it offers empowerment to black viewers Christie said.
“You feel like you can accomplish more and you have that drive knowing someone did it before me,” Christie said. “When we see black people in the media … it kind of helps boost the confidence of black people as a whole … There are statistics that show that if you see someone who looks like you, you’re more inclined to do it yourself. You have more of a drive, or you feel like that’s more of a possibility for you.”
The film Black Panther is a singular achievement in a long and ongoing history of black Americans. It’s a milestone that represents yet another act of courage in the face of persistent adversity, Christie said.
“We see a group of people for hundreds of years who have stood up in the times of that adversity, have stood up when they felt like the place they called home wasn’t really a home …” Christie said. “They were still able to stand up every single time and so I think that’s a testament to experiences as a human being, that in life there’s going to be times of adversity and times when you feel low. But you get up. You fall seven times and you get up eight.”
Christie and Griffin encourage students of all races, religions, colors and creeds to attend the Black Panther screenings and to grow in knowledge and understanding of black history this month.