Q & A: Celebrating Black Heritage at GW

GW Today spoke to BHC Co-chair Molayo Ifebajo about uplifting and investing in the university’s Black community this February and beyond.

February 2, 2024

Molayo Ifebajo is co-chair of BHC at GW. (Courtesy Molayo Ifebajo)

Molayo Ifebajo is co-chair of BHC at GW. (Courtesy Molayo Ifebajo)

The George Washington University joins institutions across the United States in celebrating Black History Month this February, with 2024’s Black Heritage Celebration (BHC) featuring a monthlong calendar of events, book displays across campus, digital collections and more. The theme this year is “For Us, By Us,” spotlighting the necessity of centering Black voices and listeners in the national story. Chosen by students, the theme originated with the founders of FUBU, a hip-hop apparel company with billions of dollars in sales worldwide, who came up with the acronym as they were starting their fashion business in the early 1990s. The FUBU founders' intent initially was to create a hat brand owned, operated and for the Black community.

GW BHC Co-chair Molayo Ifebajo, a senior majoring in public health with a minor in data science, spoke to GW Today about the celebration, self-determination and how to uplift the community on campus and off. (Answers were edited for space.)

Q: How did you get involved with Black life on campus?

A: I'm originally from Lagos, Nigeria, but I live on Long Island right now. Coming from a predominantly white neighborhood—and my high school was predominantly white—I knew that immersing myself in the Black community was something that I wanted to do in college. I tried to do that even when we were online because of COVID, so I was very excited to get involved when we finally came to campus. As far as campus orgs, I’m the vice president of administration for the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) and for the past two years I was vice president of the Black Girl Pre-Health Collective (BGPC). These things have been really important to me.

I applied to co-chair the BHC this year because the co-chairs from last year reached out to me, and the two BHCs that I've been able to experience in person, I've really enjoyed. It's always been a good time.

Q: What’s the BHC theme this year, and what does that theme mean to you?

A: So the theme this year is “For Us, By Us,” and it basically encapsulates how we want Black History Month to be celebrated on our own terms, rather than expectations from outside the community. I think some people see February as a time to just talk about the wrongdoings that the Black community has been through and all the trauma, and yes, that is very, very important. But we also want to say sure, we've been through all that stuff, but we are standing together as a community, and we're going to celebrate who we are as a people. We're going to lift each other up, and we're going to have a good time while doing it. We want every Black student on campus to feel seen by this theme—to feel special about being a Black person.

My blackness is something that I cannot hide, something that I do not hide, because it is very important to me. I have always seen myself as Black from day one. That [identity] has given me my culture, it’s given me my community, it’s given me warmth and something to share in. I'm so happy and so thankful because Black is amazing and beautiful.

Q: Why is it important to celebrate Black heritage in the country right now and at GW specifically?

A: Given the history of America, it’s very important. Whether we like it or not, whether people want to admit it or not, Black people are woven into the fabric of America. Without Black people America wouldn’t be…it wouldn’t be, literally. So it’s important to acknowledge that, and to look at what we as a community are doing for Black people.

In recent years there's been an increase in the number of Black students on campus. Obviously, that’s really important, but also as that community grows, I would like to see the university be more intentional about investing in us in the right ways. We’re not just props or points to say “Hey, we’re increasing diversity.” Once we admit Black students, how do we show them that they are valued? How are we supporting them beyond just providing an education? How are we showing that we care about the diverse backgrounds they all come from? I know that’s a heavy topic, but I’m hoping for progress. 

BHC For Us By Us

#GWToDo: Celebrating Black History

The calendar is packed. While there’s plenty to keep you occupied on campus, we’ve also listed some events in the wider D.C. area. Follow @gwubhc on Instagram for updates.

GW Events

Feb. 5 at 7 p.m. Our Health, Our History
University Student Center, Room 405
800 21st St., NW

Feb. 6 at 7 p.m. “We Shall Transcend All” Black career panel
USC Amphitheatre

Feb. 7 at 6 p.m. Black History Jeopardy
District House First Floor Lounge
2121 H St., NW

Feb. 8 at 4 p.m. 2020: Year of the Nurse
Exploration Hall, 101
20101 Academic Way, Ashburn, Va.

Feb. 8 at 6:30 p.m. Dancing While Black
District House Dance Studio

Feb. 9 at 5 p.m. Dance Class
District House Dance Studio

Feb. 10 at 1 p.m. “We Move Together” mental health gathering and yoga session
USC Room 302

Feb. 10 at 7 p.m. Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre
John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
2700 F St., NW

Feb. 11 at 7 p.m. "Soulful Expressions: An Evening of Empowerment Through Black Voices" open mic night
USC Room 309

Feb. 12 at 5:15 p.m. Celebrating our Culture with Black Jeopardy
USC Room 308

Feb. 15 at 6 p.m. Celebrating our Voice in Academia
School of Media and Public Affairs, 5th floor

Feb. 20 at 7 p.m. Recreating Icons
USC Room 308

Feb. 20 at 7 p.m. Soul Revue
USC Continental Ballroom

Feb. 21 at 6 p.m. Engineering a Path to Greatness
Science and Engineering Hall, Lehman Auditorium
800 22nd St., NW

Feb. 22 at 7:30 p.m. Island Rhythms Unleashed
USC Room 311

Feb. 24 Finale
EXPAT at Western Market
2000 Pennsylvania Ave., NW

Feb. 26 at 5:30 p.m. Discussion of Black Representation in Professional Spheres
USC Room 402

Feb. 27 at 4 p.m. Art and Resistance
Location TBA

Events in D.C.

Feb. 3 at 10 a.m. First Saturdays: February
National Gallery of Art East Building
4th St. and Constitution Ave., NW

Feb. 5 at 7 p.m. HBCU Made: A Celebration of the Black College Experience
Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library
901 G St., NW

Feb. 15 at 7 p.m. “What Have We Here?” with Billy Dee Williams
Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library
901 G St., NW

Feb. 15 at 7 p.m. Cicely Tyson and Me: A Relationship Forged in Fashion
In person and online
Oprah Winfrey Theatre, National Museum of African American History and Culture
1400 Constitution Ave., NW