Although Black History Month officially begins in February, the celebration at Liberty University got off to a fast start with a program in honor of the 79th birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on Jan. 15. and will continue with multiple activities throughout the next few weeks.
“Black History Month was established in 1976 as a month-long celebration that was an expansion of Negro History Week,” said Melany Pearl, director of the Center for Multicultural Enrichment (Center4ME) at Liberty University.
“It was an excellent service,” Associate Director of Center4Me John Swann said of the King program.
“We had a performance by the 8th Street Baptist Church choir, preaching by Pastor Keith Anderson (Director of the Conduct Office), and more than 100 people in attendance. It’s important to celebrate Dr. King because he helped show this country how to dream and how to keep those dreams alive.”
Another of the other upcoming Black History Month events is called A Journey Back to the Roots, which is a viewing of the popular TV miniseries “Roots” that will take place from Feb. 4-8.
Other events include a visit to the Jim Crow Museum in Central Virginia on Feb. 2, a Minority Pre-Law Conference at George Mason University on Feb. 23 and Civil Rights Week from Feb. 25-28.
“I really think the student body here at Liberty needs to see the part that African-American people had in our history and culture,” Jose Mercado, another associate director for the Center4Me, said.
“Everything this year is different,” Mercado said. “In fact, we try not to put the same events year after year so they don’t become stale.”
Over the course of the month, students and guests will be able to learn about many popular African-Americans in history, such as Jackie Robinson, Jim Crow, Malcolm X, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr. and Emmit Till.
Most of these people are well-known, but Swann stresses the importance of learning about lesser-known figures like Emmit Till.
“Till doesn’t get as much publicity, but it was his death and the fact that the perpetrators were never punished, even though they were tried, that helped spark the Civil Rights Movement,” Swann said.
Till was 14 years old when he was murdered in Mississippi for whistling at a Caucasian woman.
More information about Till, Parks, King and Malcolm X will be featured during the celebration of Civil Rights Week, Feb. 25-28.
“I’m also looking forward to Beyond the Journey on Feb. 29,” Mercado said. “This will be a look at the music and its effect on the culture stemming from the past to now.”
Beyond the Journey will be held in North Campus 1500 at 7 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 29.
“Since I have been here, I haven’t heard any complaints (about these events), and many students thank us for putting them on,” Mercado said.
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