University celebrates Black History Month with focus on health and wellness

January 20, 2022
Black History Month 2022 photo

Fitchburg State University celebrates Black History Month in February with a series of virtual and in-person events organized around the theme of Black health and wellness.

The events are free and open to the public. Face coverings are required inside campus buildings, and visitors will be asked to attest they are free of COVID-19 symptoms.

The theme for this year’s observance was inspired by the Association for the Study of African American Life and History. This theme acknowledges the legacy of not only Black scholars and medical practitioners in Western medicine, but also other ways of knowing (e.g., birthworkers, doulas, midwives, naturopaths, herbalists, etc.) throughout the African Diaspora. The 2022 theme considers activities, rituals and initiatives that Black communities have done to be well.

Programming begins in January, with events celebrating the life and legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The campus will host a screening of the film “King in the Wilderness” at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 26 in Ellis White Lecture Hall in Hammond Hall. The documentary focuses on the final two years of King’s life, leading up to his assassination on April 4, 1968. The film highlights events in King's life and the Civil Rights movement including as the Chicago Freedom Movement, the James Meredith march, the anti-Vietnam War protests and King's "Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence" speech, the 1967 riots, preparation for the Poor People's Campaign, the Memphis sanitation strike, the "I've Been to the Mountaintop" speech, and King's assassination and funeral.

The campus begins its celebration of Black History Month with “Radical Self Love,” a virtual presentation by Porsha Olayiwola, at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 1. This workshop teaches and beckons for participants to glorify themselves. Using writings from Nikki Giovanni, Toni Morrison and Kendrick Lamar, this writing workshop seeks to establish a safe space within ourselves and use radical self-love to explore art in a way that offers up praise to the people we are and the people we are becoming.

Porsha Olayiwola is a writer, performer, educator and curator, originally from Chicago and now a resident of Boston. She is an Individual World Poetry Slam Champion and the artistic director at MassLEAP, a literary youth organization. Olayiwola is an MFA candidate at Emerson College. Porsha Olayiwola is the author of i shimmer sometimes, too forthcoming with Button Poetry and is the current poet laureate for the city of Boston. Register to join the virtual event at https://bit.ly/3AjDiKc

Also in February, the campus will host a screening of the Academy Award-winning film “Judas and the Black Messiah” at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 8 in Ellis White Lecture Hall in Hammond Hall. The biographical crime drama depicts the betrayal of Fred Hampton (played in an Oscar-winning performance by Daniel Kaluuya), chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party in late 1960s Chicago, by William O'Neal (played by an Oscar-nominated Lakeith Stanfield), an FBI informant. The film was lauded by critics, who praised King's direction, the performances, and its timely themes. The film earned six Oscar nominations at the 93rd Academy Awards.

The campus will host a screening of the film “Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools” at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 22 in Ellis White Lecture Hall in Hammond Hall. Inspired by the groundbreaking book of the same name by Monique W. Morris, Ed.D, "Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools" takes a deep dive into the lives of Black girls and the practices, cultural beliefs and policies that disrupt one of the most important factors in their lives - education. Alarmingly, African-American girls are the fastest-growing population in the juvenile justice system and the only group of girls to disproportionately experience criminalization at every education level.

A full list of programs can be found online at fitchburgstate.edu/bhm.