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Students at the African American Student Services (AASS) Annual Flag Raising Community in front of Scholes Hall on Thursday, Feb. 1. Courtesy Photo of Dannelle M. Kirvan.

Op-ed: 2024 Black History Month: Revitalizing the revolution By Imani Knox

In the month of February, we enter a time of reflection and re-embrace what the Black Community has done and continues to do – not only at the University of New Mexico, but in our ever-evolving world. Black History Month starts Feb. 1 and ends Feb. 29 and is a nationwide celebration that highlights those who have paved the way for Black Americans to be where they are today.

As we honor this month at UNM, we emphasize the theme of “Revitalizing the Revolution” and bringing life to change in environments where growth is critical.

What does “revitalizing the revolution” mean, exactly? To me and so many of the Black students here on campus, it means being able to have the courage and passion that so many of those who came before us demonstrated with every step they took which will allow us to open doors and improve the Black experience.

This attitude can be seen in Carter G. Woodson, the founder of Black History Month. He had a vision and was passionate about highlighting the contributions of Black Americans in the United States. He started by establishing Negro week in 1926 as the second week of February, which set the stage for the full month to be recognized as Black History Month.

His passion is what allowed for Black Americans to get the recognition they deserved. It did not just stop with him; there were so many African Americans who had an idea of what they wanted the world to look like for Black individuals, and ran after it with this desire to see growth in the society in which they lived in.

As we zoom into this idea and what it looks like on UNM campus, we remember students like Barbara Brown Simmons who helped to create the UNM Africana Studies Department and African American Students Services – one of the only safe spaces for Black students on campus.

We also remember students like Rene Matison who was a charter member of the first Black fraternity to be established at UNM. We must also recognize students who are presently on campus and continue to fight with passion for the needs of their Black peers.

Black student leaders like Meilani Dugarte, Annah Macha, Kamryn Kizzine, Kenya Thomas, Dorothy Onikute Thompson, Emmanuel Mitchell, Kaelyn Moon, Quincy Blakemore, Nakia Jackson, Chiamaka Okoye, Jason Stigler, Senator Nwamaka Tutman and Senator Sierra Dedmon serve as presidents of the various Black student organizations on campus and hold office in our student government.

These leaders and my peers understand the need for change and how a single idea can influence history on campus where there is still an opportunity for growth in the overall experience. They are leading the efforts by continuing to celebrate and make history at UNM.

The UNM Black Student Union (BSU) is celebrating its 55th year on campus and continuing to provide space for Black students to address matters of interest to their community, engage in cultural practices and center the voices of Black students at UNM.

As we honor the 55th year of the BSU, we celebrate the UNM National Pan-Hellenic Council chartering. The NPHC is the governing council for the nine historically Black fraternities and sororities. While these fraternities and sororities have had a presence on campus since 1965, 2024 will be the first year the organizations operate within a UNM chapter of the NPHC. The Divine Nine (D9) family could not be happier to have a space where they can collaborate and function as one.

Being a part of a community that embraces what being Black means on a campus where you are the minority is what has made my experience at UNM great. It has allowed me to find family and friends who look like me. It has given me the opportunity to have conversations about history that are often neglected and how the Black experience – my experience – contributes to my identity.

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I am forever grateful for what African American Student Services (also known as the FRO) has done for me and for my peers. I would also like to thank the staff Brandi Stone, J. Gourdin, Dannelle Kirven and Anu Somoye who have taken the roles of brothers, sisters, aunties and uncles.

These individuals have made the space what it is for so many and make sure that we are always supported and always have what we need. As we continue through the month, we will convene to talk about Black love, what it means to revitalize the revolution as young adults, watch the D9 at upcoming basketball games and be in community with those who mean the most to us.

This Black history month we are lighting a fire under our feet and finding ways to continue to improve the Black experience at UNM.

Imani Knox is a student in the College of Nursing and Student Success Leader at the African American Student Services. 

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