In celebration of Black Heritage Month, the George Washington University’s Multicultural Student Services Center is honoring African American culture with a series of events this month, organized in partnership with a student-planning committee.
Programming kicked off last week with a keynote address from Beverly Bond, the founder and CEO of Black Girls Rock!, a mentorship program for girls aged 12 to 17.
“The Black Heritage Celebration is a university-wide series of events that recognizes, honors and celebrates a critical aspect of American history,” Director of the MSSC Michael Tapscott said. “It is an opportunity for every GW student, faculty and staff member to learn more about African American culture and tradition.”
Ms. Bond, a former DJ, addressed nearly 300 students in Betts Theatre on Wednesday to discuss her work with Black Girls Rock!, the nonprofit she founded in 2006 to empower youth through mentorship, arts education, cultural exploration and public service.
She described her dedication to building positive images of women of color among youth in order to combat negative stereotypes portrayed in the media.
“I wanted to bring awareness to a problem that seemed to be invisible while in plain sight,” Ms. Bond said. “I was willing to do something to counteract the constant barrage of destructive, demeaning and dehumanizing images and media messages that diminish the value of women as whole beings.”
The goal of the program is to build self-worth in teenage girls at a time when they are most vulnerable as a means of combating the social issues that continue to plague women in the black community, including HIV/AIDS, teen pregnancy and poverty, she said.
“Social change always comes through the work of the hands of men,” she said. “One voice can become a tipping point or a catalyst to change the world and everyone has a voice,” she added.
Following the keynote there was a question-and-answer session with students.
“The programming reflects the university's unwavering support of diversity and inclusion,” Mr. Tapscott said. “We want students to see, hear and touch the full spectrum of American history, while emphasizing the range of the contributions of African Americans.”
Program highlights include “Limited Labels,” a peer-to-peer event that examines how people define their identity to others; “Black State of the Union: Forum on Mental Health”; “Late Registration: The Black Presence in Higher Education”; and “All Black Everything,” a night of dinner and dancing to close the celebration.
"We are so proud of the hard work of the Black Heritage Celebration planning committee," Mr. Tapscott said. "Without the leadership of GW seniors Kayla Dawes, Arielle Ford, Corey Gregory, Simisola Ojouri and Ashlynn Profit, these events would not be possible."
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