Emma Lohman – Staff Writer
February is Black History Month, and the Pan-Afrikan Student Organization (PASO) has planned many exciting and educational events for the Gustavus community based on the theme “Know the Past, Shape the Future.”
The theme was chosen with the goal of drawing attention to the accomplishments of Black people, as well as the difficulties that they have faced, with the hope that these lessons can guide future actions.
Gusties can participate in a variety of weekly events held on Thursday nights along with Friday movie nights. In addition to these events, PASO will be posting daily stories on its Instagram profile (@pasogustavus) about past and present historical figures and events.
PASO hosted its first event on Feb. 4, a virtual discussion focusing on the Black experience and being Black in America. Some of the topics covered included microaggressions, cultural appropriation versus cultural appreciation and allyship.
Both of the co-chairs highlighted the inclusive nature of the event and the value in Black students being able to talk openly about what it is like to attend a predominantly white institution.
“I thought it was really cool to get to hear from people, some of these people that I’ve known for a while now, to hear deeper stuff that they’ve experienced at Gustavus or in life in general,” Sophomore Co-Chair Zachary Gbor said.
“I liked how there were African Americans and non-minorities there to listen and understand,” Junior Co-Chair Abegeya Tanese said.
Upcoming events include a Zoom Trivia Night from 6-7 p.m. on Feb. 11 and a dodgeball tournament from 6-7:30 p.m. on Feb. 18 in the Lund Forum. Both events will have prizes for the winners. There will also be an Open Mic Night/Poetry Slam event from 6-7:30 p.m. on Feb. 25 in Alumni Hall.
In addition, PASO kicked off its first movie night with a showing of The Haunted House last Friday, Feb. 5 and will be spotlighting other films and documentaries with Black directors and casts throughout the month.
“Black History Month for me means showcasing how awesome, how amazing, how extravagant it is to be a Black person. And to show myself once again why it is awesome to be in this skin and why I should always 100 percent appreciate it and be proud of it.”
Black History Month was the brainchild of historian Carter G. Woodson and other prominent African Americans and was officially recognized by President Gerald Ford in 1976. February was chosen because the Association for the Study of African American Life and History originally sponsored a Black history week during the second week of February to coincide with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglas, both of whom played a key role in helping end slavery. This year there is renewed urgency for celebrating Black History Month following the protests and calls for racial justice that were sparked in 2020.
“[It’s] working in partnership, not in competition…it is a time to remove people out of ignorance, but also to encourage them to ask questions,” Senior Co-President Ingrid Kubisa said.
It is also notable that the new Center for Inclusive Excellence recently opened in the former Dive, just in time for Black History Month. This new larger space is designed to be a place that welcomes and appreciates individuals from all walks of life, and Gusties are encouraged to check it out. The Center offers many programs and initiatives related to diversity, equity and inclusion. Students seeking more resources about supporting Black, Indigenous, and/or Persons of Color (BIPOC) students or educating themselves about anti-racism can look on the Gustavus website: https://gustavus.edu/counseling/RESOURCES/ResourcesforBlackStudents.php.
PASO members welcome anyone who is interested in joining their organization to attend their meetings on Monday nights from 8-9 p.m. on Zoom. For questions or comments about upcoming events, Gusties can contact:
Abegeya Tadese (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Zachary Gbor (email@example.com).