Black History Month Kicks Off with Opening Dinner

By Jessica McKenzie & RJ Giannicchi, Asst. Features Editor and Contributor

A celebration of Black History Month was set in motion at Manhattan College campus on Feb. 6 with an Opening Dinner in Smith Auditorium. The event was hosted by the Multicultural Center and the Black Student Union.

Students were served African rice, chicken, vegetables and plantains as they viewed many inspiring faces of Black history on the projector slideshow. This includes figures such as Michelle Obama, Rosa Parks, Maya Angelou, Martin Luther King Jr. and Fredrick Douglass.

Hayden Greene, director of the Multicultural Center, explained to the full auditorium of students and faculty that Black History Month started with the work of Carter G. Woodson in 1926 when he created Negro History Week. He was on a mission to teach the history of the African American heritage in schools. Eventually, an entire month was dedicated to the remarkable history of African Americans. It was decided that February would be Black History Month to coordinate with the birthdays of Fredrick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln.

“This is an opportunity for us to come together and talk about the power of the contribution of Black people in this country who have elevated and added to the fabric of our nation.… Black history our history, regardless of your identity. That is what we hope comes across profoundly,” Greene said.

Gregory Cowart was the keynote speaker for the event. A graduate from Howard University, Cowart is a project manager of the physical plant at Manhattan College. He is also an ordained minister and the son of a Black Panther.

Head of Physical Plant Gregory Cowart delivers inspiring speech during Black History Month Opening dinner. JESSICA MCKENZIE/ THE QUADRANGLE

Cowart spent his speech at the dinner challenging the audience to think about the fact that they were chosen by a higher power to make an impact using his belief in God and belief in the student body of Manhattan College.

“What will you do? How will you be a history maker?” Cowart asked. “History is made by those who persevere, not those who give up, not those who missed their opportunity … But those who look for opportunities.”

Another person honored during the Opening Dinner was President of the Black Student Union, senior communication major, Pauly Paulicap. Paulicap has only been President of the Black Student Union for one semester, but he has learned the tremendous importance of Black history in a short time.

“The older I get, the more educated I become about Black history. I’m starting to celebrate it more and more. [The Black Student Union] gives students a sense of home and community on campus. It provides them an opportunity to be somewhere where they’re comfortable, and they can freely express what they feel,” Paulicap said.

At the end of Cowart’s speech, the night closed with the talents of singer and producer Okema T. Moore. Moore sang four original songs for the audience to close the Opening Night Dinner, all with messages of empowerment.

“Some people complain … that we don’t need a month to be proud to be Black. No, we don’t. The idea is that we take a month to remind those who are not Black that we matter,” she said.