“Oh but my joy of today
Is that we can all be proud to say
To be young, gifted and black
Is where it's at.”

To Be Young, Gifted & Black - Nina Simone / Weldon Irvine

To mark Black History Month in February, the African American Student Services at The University of New Mexico has slated a series of virtual events. The theme for this semester is the arts, according to AASS director Brandi Stone, and the focus is on music in February. The calendar of events is designed to look like a Spotify playlist to reflect the musical theme.

Flag raising, Monday, Feb. 1 
The month’s events will kick off with a virtual flag-raising ceremony. The event will take place and videoed on campus following COVID-safe practices and then posted on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.

The Pan-African flag is a symbol of Black liberation and every year AASS kicks off its Black History Month at UNM with raising the flag at Scholes Hall. This year, the tradition will continue virtually, along with UNM Health Sciences Center, which will hang its Black history month banner on the Lomas bridge.

The flag, adopted in 1920, features the familiar red, black and green bands and each color has symbolic meaning. Red stands for blood shed by Africans who died in their fight for liberation and the shared blood of the African people. Black represents black people and, according to the Universal Negro Catechism, “the noble and distinguished race to which we belong.” Green is a symbol of growth and the natural fertility and “luxuriant vegetation” of Africa.

 “The flag raising ceremony is special because students lead the march from our office to Scholes Hall, students share the meaning of the flag colors, and students raise the flag as a symbol that Black History Month has officially begun at UNM. Although we cannot congregate and fellowship in the same way, students have still taken the lead for this initiative and developed it into a virtual program,” Stone explained.

Popular Hair Moments in Black Music History, Tuesday, Feb. 2, at noon  
“Black musicians have resisted limited ideals of beauty and offered us a rich narrative of hair that belongs to Black people all their own,” according to Natelegé Whaley, a Black culture journalist. The AASS will join Whaley to unpack the best Black hair in music history. Whaley’s work has been featured in many media channels, including NBC News, The Huffington Post, Teen Vogue, and Black Entertainment Television.  The program will be featured on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.

“This month we are focusing on Black history through the lens of music. We are excited that Natelegé is creating exclusive content specifically for our students that connects hair and music through the lens of Black history. It is a great event that will lead to our discussion on the CROWN Act later in the week,” Stone said. 

Collegiate CROWN Act Healing Townhall, Thursday, Feb. 4, at 5:30 p.m.
The CROWN Act stands for Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair. During this townhall, participants will learn about the history of Black hair, the magic of joyful collaboration, and an opportunity to share hair stories across the state. The presentation will be held virtually via Zoom.

Data shows that Black women are 1.5 times more likely to be sent home from the workplace because of their hair, 3.4 times more likely to be perceived as unprofessional, and 30 percent more likely to be made aware of workplace appearance policies.

“Every year as students near graduation, we have conversations that center on transitioning to the workforce and receive questions from students about whether they need to cut their locs or hide their curls for interviews,” Stone explained. “Passing the CROWN Act in New Mexico means that we can continue to tell students to show up as their authentic selves and because it is illegal to discriminate based on hair. This townhall is bringing several New Mexico colleges together to have this critical conversation.”

National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness, starting Feb. 7
Truman Health Services will be providing safer sex kits and HIV/AIDS testing for the UNM community. Contact African American Student Services for additional information.

“We know that our Black and African American community continue to account for higher proportions of HIV diagnosis and people with HIV, according to the CDC. In addition to urging our community to follow all COVID safe practices, we also want to send a message to practice safe sex, get tested, and know your status. We are thankful that Truman is able to continue to provide these services during our current COVID-19 pandemic,” Stone said.

The Bigger Picture: Hip Hop & the BLM Movement, Thursday, Feb 11, 4:30p.m. 
Lakeyta Bonnette-Bailey, faculty member at Georgia State University’s Africana Studies department, will lay out hip-hop's legacy of political consciousness and its connection with the Black Lives Matter Movement. Send in favorite woke hip-hop song to the AASS IG story to hear Bonnette-Bailey discuss the lyrics. The presentation will be held virtually via Zoom.

 “Music and activism have always had this special relationship in our community,” Stone observed. “I hope that participants will walk away with a better understanding of how hip-hop has impacted the BLM movement and how the BLM movement has impacted hip-hop, culture and our community.”

RAW Tuba, Thursday, Feb. 18, 4 p.m.
UNM associate professor of Music Richard Antoine White (R.A.W.) is the first African American to receive a doctorate in music for Tuba Performance. Join AASS as we stream R.A.W. Tuba: From Sandtown to Symphony, a documentary about R.A.W.’s journey from being a Baltimore child who experienced intermittent homelessness who went on to become a world-class symphony musician and professor. White will join the program and speak with participants about his story and perseverance. The presentation will be held virtually via Zoom.

“AASS is celebrating Black History month through the lens of music and our colleagues on North Campus are celebrating Black History month through the lens of the arts. We are excited to partner on this program and highlight a faculty member from our UNM community. We are fortunate to have Dr. White at UNM and appreciate all the work he has done to recruit Black and African American students to the music department,” Stone remarked.

Zoom a ZuZu Acrobats, Tuesday, Feb. 23, time TBA 
Let the ZuZu African Acrobats mesmerize you with their stunning moves and African music. You’ll forget that you are only seeing them virtually as they bring a bit of African culture into your home. Enjoy this live Zoom performance as the UNM Black and African American community celebrate African culture. 

“AASS is collaborating with the CNM Black History organizing committee to host this event. We hope that you will watch at home with family or friends and enjoy the performance,” Stone said.

Photo by Ezekixl Akinnewu from Pexels

Photo by Ibrahim Hafeez from Pexels