Honoring Black History Month
Dear faculty, staff, and students,
Welcome back to in-person work and school! And thank you for your patience and hard work these last few weeks. I know none of us wanted to begin the spring semester remotely, but your willingness to do so has contributed immensely to keeping our campus community safe during this latest COVID surge. Brighter times are ahead: not only are we having spring-like weather this week, but the State of Oregon announced the likely end of the statewide indoor mask mandate by the end of March! We will make a decision in March when to follow suit.
Black History Month
Now that we are back in person, it is time to turn our attention to the significance of this particular month. February has been officially designated Black History Month by every U.S. president since 1976. This designation provides an important opportunity to reflect on the many contributions African Americans have made to our country and culture, and to acknowledge the many challenges they have faced. It is also an opportunity to reflect on how far we still have to go to ensure that Lewis & Clark is a place where African Americans and other persons of color feel a true sense of belonging.
In 2018, we adopted a strategic plan that called for us to strengthen our diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. We have made progress over the last five years, increasing the number of faculty who identify as BIPOC by almost half and initiating educational programs designed to help faculty and staff better understand issues of power, privilege, supremacy, oppression, and equity. We have also launched a Racial Justice Internship program to get students involved in community organizations that primarily serve BIPOC populations, and we are expanding efforts to recruit more BIPOC students. But we are still a long way from becoming a workplace or college of choice for many Black and other BIPOC individuals.
Our continuing challenges aside, we do have one very important milestone to celebrate during this particular Black History Month. After considering more than 100 applications from around the country, L&C’s Board of Trustees voted last month to select Robin Holmes-Sullivan as the institution’s next president. Robin will be the first Black person to serve in this role in the college’s 155-year history.
I am delighted that the board chose Robin for this historic role—but I’m not surprised. As I said when the decision was announced, we knew Robin was a star when we hired her as the Vice President for Student Life three years ago. But she has far exceeded even our highest expectations—and I know there are many more amazing achievements ahead for her and for Lewis & Clark in the years to come.
Also in the good news category is L&C’s recent decision to declare June 19—often referred to as Juneteenth—an official holiday for the campus community. Juneteenth is the anniversary of the day in 1865 when Texas officials finally informed African Americans living in that state of the federal executive order that declared all enslaved persons to be free. As we get closer to June 19, we will provide additional information about Juneteenth celebrations occurring in the community.
February Black History Activities
In the meantime, there are a significant number of activities on and off campus in the next few weeks celebrating Black History Month. Following is a partial list of those events. There is no cost to participate in most of these activities, but many do require pre-registration.
February 14, 12:10–1:10 p.m.
Being Human as Praxis: A Virtual Conversation With Dr. Christopher Carter (virtual event). Carter will share his teaching and research focused on philosophical and theological ethics, Black and Womanist theological ethics, environmental ethics, and animals and religion. Register online.
February 16, 6–7 p.m.
Keynote from Brown Hope, featuring Cameron Whitten (rescheduled MLK Day virtual event). Whitten has been a leader in several movements for social change and has spent the last decade giving back to the community. Register here.
February 23, 5–6:30 p.m.
Education as Freedom: The Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program and the Mission of the Liberal Arts (virtual event). Join Associate Professor of History and Director of Ethnic Studies Reiko Hillyer as she speaks on the Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program. Register online.
February 25, 4:30–6 p.m.
The Ambassador Edward J. Perkins Distinguished Speaker Series, “Finding Peace in a Divided Korea” (Miller Hall). Register online
February 25, 5–7 p.m.
IME’s Black History Month Celebration Dinner. Join IME for a meal catered by a local Black-owned restaurant. Reply here.
Every other Thursday, 3–6 p.m.
Art for Social Change Open Studio. These sessions focus on exploring social, racial, or political current events. Create art and dialogue about their impact on our communities and work together toward social change. See the link for more information and to sign up.
Aubrey R. Watzek Library is featuring a display of books by Black authors for the entire month of February.
If you have questions or would like additional information about any of the events listed above, please email Associate Dean of Students and Executive Director of the Center for Social Change and Community Involvement Kayleigh McCauley-Sayer (email@example.com) or Director of Inclusion and Multicultural Engagement Joann Zhang (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Other community events for Black History Month can be found in The Skanner at https://www.theskanner.com/news/newsbriefs/32666-celebrate-black-history-month-with-free-events
I look forward to working with all of you in the days ahead to identify ways to make Lewis & Clark a more welcoming place for all faculty, staff, and students. The task will not be an easy one. But working together, we have been able to meet the challenges of the past—and I am confident we can meet this one as well.
Wishing everyone a safe and healthy spring semester,