On Jan. 27, the University of New Mexico Africana Studies Program collaborated with African American Student Services to hold the 33rd Annual Black History Month Kick-Off Brunch.
Speakers from the Africana Studies Program and Interim Provost Richard L. Wood attended the brunch and gave speeches addressing their ideas on the importance of the event. A representative spoke on behalf of Interim President Chaouki Abdallah.
“Celebrating Black History Month allows us to nurture relationships within the University, in the New Mexico community and internationally,” Abdallah’s representative said. “These relationships can help move us forward in various ways.”
Being that this event was the 33rd consecutive recognition of Black History Month at UNM, the speeches often aimed to address why this event holds importance. Speeches also included information on the challenge of maintaining love for one’s culture in a community with oppressive tendencies.
“The recognition of Black History Month often covers up what is resistance against African Americans and their ways of life,” Abdallah’s representative said. “Part of the struggle is to remain true to one’s deep insight.”
This event featured many speeches from the community and the Africana Studies Program, as well as the keynote speaker, Dr. Corey D.B. Walker. The brunch concluded with a song performed by 14-year-old vocalist Chloe Nixon.
Walker is the vice president and dean of the Samuel Dewitt Proctor School of Theology and a professor of religion and society at Virginia Union University. His talk, “The Challenge of Blackness: Africana Studies and the Fate of the University” focused on the overall theme of this year’s event.
The brunch commemorated black community members who have contributed to UNM’s success. Africana Studies faculty members Admasu Shunkuri and Director Dr. Charles Becknell, Jr. received awards during the event.
Walker’s speech aimed to answer what challenging blackness is and how Africana studies plays a role in the potential success of UNM’s future. He based his ideology on two points: “our warfare lies in the field of thought,” and Africana studies is essentially an “experiment of scholarship in the context of struggle.”
Walker said he wants to discuss blackness, but not in a way that infers diversity, affirmative action, inclusion or blackness as pathology. He said he wants to focus on Africana studies and blackness as a lived experience of people in the world who have a unique experience.
“(The Africana Studies Program) is about an organization of knowledge in the University — it’s about the very idea of humanities as an intellectual project,” Walker said. “It is the very idea of what it means to be human in the world.”
He also critiqued the belief that having an Africana studies program at a university eliminates racialized issues and diversity problems.
Walker created an overall call for action.
He spoke to address what the challenges of Africana studies were. He also addressed how the field of study creates a different environment in the university setting and that this program should be taken seriously by the community, by the University and by students.
“If we take Albuquerque serious, if we take the conflict of knowledge with our students serious, then (the world) will have no choice but to pay attention to the epistemic insurrection that we call Black Studies,” he said.
Rebecca Brusseau is a news reporter at the Daily Lobo. She primarily covers the LGBTQ community. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @r_brusseau.