It was about 7 p.m. on Feb. 28, and while the majority of people on campus already had called it a day, Monica Turner, professor of Pan-African studies, was busy making last-minute preparations for the closing ceremony of Black History Month at the Satellite Student Union Shoshone Room.
“I have music for each of the slides,” Turner said, as she directed a technical assistant helping her with a slide presentation.
With barely any time to catch her breath and squeeze in a hug from a colleague, her fast-paced momentum came to a halt as she commanded the attention of the room with a “Let’s get this party started!”
The ceremony concluded a series of movies, skits, speeches and banquets in honor of Black History Month.
At the start of the program, Turner asked students to come forward and participate in a ceremonial libation, as graduate student Empress Nontsikelelo poured water into a flower pot.
Turner spoke, directing her attention to the group of students: “I give this flower pot for the watering of your gifts, the watering of your talents, in love.”
Following a prayer, slide show photographs of Turner’s presentation “Looking Back, Moving Forward: The Evolution of Black History” lit up the wall.
Photographic images recapping Black History Month events on campus were greeted by shouts and applause from the audience.
The applause turned into syncopated clapping and singing when the presentation was accompanied by the soulful tunes “I’m so Proud,” “Amen” and “It’s All Right” by The Impressions.
Rachel Murphy, president of the Women’s Studies Student Association, came out to support her fellow students and members of the Black Student Union who helped put the ceremony together.
“This year was fantastic,” Murphy said. “I think a lot more people came out this year.”
Murphy said she was happy with the events that were part of Black History Month at CSUN.
“I think we all, as a black community, educated a lot of individuals on this campus,” she said.
Shaun Hicks, third year studio engineering major, was happy to be part of the ceremony.
One event he said he particularly enjoyed was watching the BSU “slave auction” that took place Feb. 22.
“It’s good that we have these events because Black History Month needs to be brought up and acknowledged,” Hicks said.
Aureal Wilson, secretary of the Black Student Union and director of the slave auction, said as far as she knows, this is the first time the event has been done on campus.
“We wanted to put the auction block together because we felt our student peers needed to see something that reminded them of what happened in the past,” the junior CTVA major said.
Wilson said the auction was one of the biggest events of the month because a lot of people were able to see it.
“In the future we want more students to come out and support the events,” she said.
Students and faculty sang “The Negro National Anthem,” followed by Reverend Jerome Brown, who repeated verbatim the verses from the anthem.
People bowed their heads in silence as he said, “Lift every voice and sing till earth and heaven ring. Ring with the harmonies of liberty.”
Turner then presented organizations with plaques honoring their contributions to BHM on campus.
Niki Dixon, GEAR UP coordinator, and Gigi McGuire, Outreach coordinator, received the Rosa Parks and Coretta Scott King awards.
The WSSA received the Shirley Chisholm award and Sam Richard, editor in chief of the Daily Sundial, received the John H. Johnson Spirit Award.
Before the introduction of the keynote speaker, Runoko Rashidi, Professor David Horne stirred up cheers and applause while he commended Turner for her hard work as chair of the Black History Month Committee.
“Part of what we have to have in order to remain a culture are strong black women,” Horne said.
Turner smiled as the crowd gave her a standing ovation.
Horne expressed his thoughts on how the African-American community can strive to remain a strong culture.
“We cannot let our culture die,” he said, pausing between the words for emphasis.
Charlean Parker, first year liberal studies major, brought friend and roommate Stephanie Segundo, first year child and adolescent development major.
“I’m here to learn more about my culture,” Parker said.
She said the “slave auction” moved her.
“It proved my point on fellow people, referring to each other as nigger, as being wrong,” she said.
A hush swept the room as Rashidi approached the podium.
Rashidi spoke about African contributions to the world, the spread of African people around the world and the African presence today.
“What we are, what we’re doing, and ask what we should be doing,” sums up Rashidi’s underlying message behind his presentation.
He spoke of the history of Africans with a slide presentation of images, which he photographed during various trips to Africa, Europe and the Pacific Islands.
During Rashidi’s lecture, he expressed his views about society today by raising his hands in question at times or clenching his fists in anger.
“What are we going to do to save ourselves? What role do we play in our own downfalls?” he said.
Later that night, Tom Spencer-Walters, chair of the Pan-African Studies Department, commemorated soon-to-retire professor Rosentene Bennett-Purnell.
Purnell was recognized for her more than 30 years of work in the PAS department.
The end of the ceremony left Turner in cheerful spirits.
“Everyone pulled together and that’s really what I had in mind,” she said. “I feel like we achieved that goal.”
Nia Guleyon can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org..