Feb. 1 marked the beginning of Black History Month, and Muhlenberg began the celebration of the month with a timeline in the Light Lounge, titled “Toward Diversity: Chapters in Black History at Muhlenberg.” This timeline includes student and faculty contributions, and showcases important events in Muhlenberg’s history pertaining to Black students and faculty. The timeline begins in 1926, noting the first Black student by the name of Clara I. Lane. The timeline continues to 1947, where five Black men, by the names of Julius Becton, William Pulley ‘51, Payton Flournoy, James Williams ‘51 and William “Elmo” Jackson ‘51, were Muhlenberg’s first Black residential students.
As the timeline continues, it goes on to mark vital points in Black history at Muhlenberg, from the opening of the Office of Multicultural Life during Black History Month, to Zaire Carter ‘22 becoming the first Black president of the Student Government Association. This timeline is a part of the Muhlenberg Memories Project, which is a project meant to teach history through the lens of community. Showcasing Black history through this timeline offers reflective knowledge on the role the Black community has played at Muhlenberg.
Giovanni Merrifield ‘23 shared “I think BSA, Queer and Trans People of Color Collective, (QTPOCC) and Africana Studies have done a great job in preparing events for Black History Month. I’m thankful that the College has prompted the events and encouraged people to attend.”
The student spotlight that will be displayed in the Light Lounge is a special way to commemorate Black History month. Merrifield stated, “The student spotlight is essential in highlighting Black students’ voices on campus. Oftentimes, I feel that we are either overlooked or often too seen like we’re under a magnifying glass for our accomplishments. I feel that the spotlight does accomplish the goal of showing our excellence, our Black excellence, in a way that is best for us.”
“Black excellence is a year-round thing and we should not have to wait and be seen once a year for 28 days.”Ibrahim Sidibeh ’25
Throughout the month, there are events planned to continue celebrating Black History month. “There are so many events I’m excited for, I can not choose just one,” said Merrifield. “The Black Love event that we recently did was so lovely, it brought such a sense of love to our community.”
Merrifield offered his thoughts on what the College could be doing to uplift Black students and faculty beyond the month, stating “To be honest, I feel that there are things the College could be doing, such as implementing academic courses that should be mandatory for students to take on Critical Race Theory and that celebrate and enjoy real and authentic Blackness.”
Muhlenberg’s student-run organizations have been planning and organizing a variety of events to celebrate Black History Month. Muhlenberg has promoted these events, however, it should be acknowledged that these are events for students by students, and not by Muhlenberg as an administration.
Nevaeh Everett ‘25 said, “Muhlenberg is trying to be better in celebrating Black History Month. However, there is more that could be done. I’m glad there’s representation throughout the College. However, I think there could be greater connection between students of color and administration.” Everett also mentioned upcoming events to celebrate Black History Month. “We are hosting a fashion show on Feb. 24. It is to show Black artists and their outfits and clothing styles. It’s for all people on campus to attend.”
“Oftentimes I feel that we are either overlooked or too often seen like we’re under a magnifying glass for our accomplishments.”Giovanni Merrifield ’23
Ibrahim Sidibeh ‘25 gave his opinion on Muhlenberg’s commemoration of Black History month. “I think Muhlenberg is celebrating it decently. I appreciate the banner being in a prominent area of campus, where everyone can see. However, I think implementing it everywhere on campus is important to show that prominent Black excellence is here, and it should be viewed everywhere.”
“The student spotlight is a great idea, viewing and seeing Black excellence on campus is a great way of associating Blackness with excellence and joy as opposed to strife and sadness. We need to do better as an educational institution to stray towards Black celebration,” Sidibeh added, “I think starting and committing to more initiatives beyond the scope and timeline of Black History Month even such as spotlighting students consistently so we don’t have to wait for Black History Month to be acknowledged. Black excellence is a year-round thing and we should not have to wait and be seen once a year for 28 days.”