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Black History Month Events Expand Cultural Comfort Zones

It's easy to be stuck in a comfort zone. All too often, that carries over to cultural comfort zones. Celebrating Black History Month in Idaho provides the opportunity to stretch that comfort.

The University of Idaho marks Black History Month with events through Feb. 28.

“The University of Idaho recognizes the importance of celebrating Black History Month,” says Leathia Botello, coordinator of multicultural programs. “These events let the community learn about the contributions that African Americans have made to art, literature and politics throughout our history.”

Black History Month is a celebration rooted in higher education. The heritage month was begun in 1920 at Harvard University by Carter G. Woodson in the Omega Psi Phi fraternity as a way to celebrate African American history and literature. Woodson chose the month of February in honor of the birthdays of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln and Fredrick Douglass. Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation and Douglass was one of the nation’s leading abolitionists. Originally called Negro History Week, the celebration was expanded in the 1970s to an entire month and the name was changed to Black History Month.

University of Idaho events in recognition of this annual celebration include:

• The celebration will continue with the Diversity, Equity and Community Film Series showing of “Walkout,” on Monday, Jan. 31 at 12:30 p.m., in the Teaching and Learning Center’s Student Diversity Center, room 229, 875 S. Line St., in Moscow. “Walkout” chronicles the true story of the 1968 walkout by high school Chicano students in east Los Angeles, Calif., to protest academic prejudice and dire school conditions.

• The Rev. Jesse Jackson, American civil rights activist and dynamic orator, will deliver the Black History Month keynote lecture, entitled "Keep Hope Alive," on Monday, Feb. 7, at 7:15 p.m. in the ASUI-Kibbie Activity Center, 1000 Stadium Way, in Moscow. Over the past 40 years, Jackson has played a pivotal role in virtually every movement for empowerment, peace, civil rights, gender equality, and economic and social justice. He is the president and founder of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, a multi-racial, multi-issue, international membership organization working for social change. His lecture is free and open to the public. It will be followed by a question-and-answer period.

• The highly anticipated Shades of Black 8: Evolution will be held Saturday, Feb. 12, at 5 p.m., in the Student Union Building Ballroom, 709 Deakin Ave., in Moscow. Shades of Black 8 explores the issues of culture and identity within the African American experience through mediums of expression such as dance, spoken word, drama, stepping and song. The show will feature individuals and groups from campuses throughout the Northwest and will be hosted by comedian Alvin Williams.

• The 22nd Annual National African American Read-In will take place Thursday, Feb. 17, at 11 a.m., in the University of Idaho Library first floor, 850 Rayburn St., in Moscow. The public is invited to join faculty, staff and students to read 3-5 minute selections of African American-authored literature. Those interested may sign up to take part in the public reading by e-mailing their name, author name and the title of the selection they will be reading, along with a request for a preferred 20-minute block of time, to oma@uidaho.edu. Reading time slots are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

• The Diversity, Equity and Community Film Series will close out Black History Month with a showing of “Life of Sojourner Truth: Ain’t I a Woman?,” on Monday, Feb. 28, at 12:30 p.m., in the Teaching and Learning Center’s Student Diversity Center, room 229, 875 S. Line St., in Moscow. Despite being born without any advantages and being unable to either read or write, Isabella, who took the name Sojourner Truth in 1827 at age 30, became a famous orator who spoke out against the sins of slavery and for the rights of women.

Black History Month events are sponsored by the Office of Multicultural Affairs. All events are free and open to the public. For more information, visit www.uidaho.edu/oma, or contact the Office of Multicultural Affairs by phone at (208) 885-7716 or by e-mail at oma@uidaho.edu.