Celebration of Black Arts to kick off Black History Month

By Tasman Mattox | 2/1/18 1:24am

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GVL / Courtesy - gvsu.edu

To kick off Black History Month, the Grand Valley State University Black Student Union (BSU) is holding the annual Celebration of Black Arts on Saturday, Feb. 3. The event will begin at 7:30 p.m. in the Kirkhof Center Grand River Room. Various student organizations will be performing to honor the legacies of African-American entertainers. 

“The BSU has done this event for several years during the first week of Black History Month," said Juanita Davis, the assistant director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA) and one of the advisers for the BSU. "It highlights the talents of African-Americans in general in the arts and entertainment industry, and also helps students engage in uplifting activities outside the classroom. Historically, the arts highlighted at the event have been a source of support for African-Americans.”

The BSU is intended to be a place where anyone can get involved and feel more accepted.

“I think there is a sense of camaraderie, unity and family," Davis said. "It’s an opportunity to learn from your peers outside the classroom. They can get strategies for success they wouldn’t otherwise get.”

The OMA has a similar goal of making people feel comfortable. 

“We want to make sure everyone feels like they belong at Grand Valley,” Davis said. 

Some students find cultural heritage events to be a mixed bag.

“The cultural events on campus are a bit bittersweet for me,” said Breann Barge, a GVSU student. “I feel like they are a great thing for POC to connect with each other, but at the same they're typically the only ones at these events aside from students who are just curious about something that's not typical for them.”

However, these events can also be very fulfilling for attendees. 

“If you're a floater like me, it's hard to connect even when you're in a room full of people who should understand,” Barge said. “But I do love taking part in these events. They give me this familiar feeling that I forget about being here."

Barge also shared what art meant to her personally.

“Art is very essential to me as a black woman,” she said. “It lets me put every aspect of my identity into something people can see. ... I have always been a more creative person, so arts are very important to me. 

"I think in general, for blacks and POC, art is an expressive aspect of our culture—clothes, food, music, etc. In a way, it's like taking ownership of your narrative and presenting that to the world. Arts are powerful because of their interpretation and how many forms they can take just from how people react to them.”

Interested students can easily get involved with the BSU, which meets Tuesdays at 9 p.m. in the Kirkhof Center, Room 2259. Davis' advice is "Just attend their meetings. You can just show up!"

For more information about the Celebration of Black Arts, visit www.gvsu.edu/events/celebration-of-black-arts-4/

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