RIC Celebrates African American History Month

Rhode Island College’s Unity Center will celebrate African American History Month this February with a series of film screenings, lectures, discussions and festivities honoring the role of African Americans in U.S. history. 

The month’s 2014 theme is Civil Rights in America, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin.

“The Civil Rights Act of 1964, in effect, rendered the ‘separate but equal’ ideology unconstitutional,” said Antoinette Gomes, director of RIC’s Unity Center. “African American Month strives to educate the public about the impact and issues too often overlooked within a formal curriculum. The Unity Center is always pleased to help raise awareness of the true complexion of our country’s historical roots and myriad contributors.”

Two film screenings at RIC will showcase African Americans whose courage in advocating social change influenced America in the 1960s.

“Brother Outsider: The Bayard Rustin Story” will be shown on Monday, Feb. 3 at 4:30 p.m. in the Unity Center. The film is a portrait of civil rights leader Rustin, who was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama. Spike Lee’s biopic chronicles Malcolm X chronicles Malcolm X’s rise and fall in the Nation of Islam, and will be shown on Friday, Feb. 21, at 12:30 p.m. in the Unity Center. 

A Black History and Trivia Game will be held on Tuesday, Feb. 4, at 6 p.m. in the Student Union Café. Contestants, who must be RIC student, will be randomly selected from the audience. The contestants will receive a chance to win a commemorative Trayvon Martin hoodie. All RIC students are encouraged to wear hoodies on Wednesday, Feb. 26, in memory of Martin. 

The RIC Africana Studies Program is sponsoring a day visit to the Black History 101 Mobile Museum at Northeastern University in Boston on Feb. 12. The museum has over 5,000 collective black memorabilia. Travel cost for this event is $13.

To celebrate that “civil rights are women’s rights,” RIC Feminists United is sponsoring two performances of Eve Ensler’s “The Vagina Monologues: RIC Chapter 2014,” Feb. 13 - 14 at 7 p.m. in Gaige Auditorium. Ensler’s play is based on interviews with women about sexuality and the social stigma surrounding rape and abuse. The performance coincides with V-Day, a global movement to end violence against women and revitalize local anti-violence organizations. Tickets are $10 for the public and $5 for RIC students with ID.

The month’s events conclude on Feb. 26 with an open forum titled “In Memoriam-Injustice in the Justice System,” from 5-7 p.m. in the Student Union room 307. This facilitated discussion will encourage public commentary about the efforts of racial profiling, mass incarceration and the media on African American life and death in America. This event is co-sponsored by L.I.F.E.

African American History Month originated as a weeklong observance of black history in 1926 by historian Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, who placed an emphasis on coordinating public schools to teach on black history that week.

In 1976, the U.S. government made an official recognition of expansion to a month-long observance to coincide with the country’s bicentennial. The American president has designated February Black History Month ever since.

For a full list of events celebrating African-American History Month at RIC, visit http://www.ric.edu/unitycenter/events.php.