Baruch celebrates Black Excellence Week amid George Floyd Protests

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Anacaona Rodriguez | The Ticker

Feba George

Baruch College’s Black Student Union hosted its second annual Black Excellence Week to celebrate the graduates of the class of 2020 with events from June 1 through June 5 via Zoom.

Events included “Battle of the Black Grads,” “Night of Black Love,” “Open Mic Night,” “Conversate: Beauty/Barber shop” and “Black Grad.”

“In a moment where everything is so grim and hope is not abundant, or so it may seem, there is a necessity to have a light even if it hurts to carry a light or torch,” said PJ Hill from BMI when asked about the purpose of the events.

The first event was “Battle of the Black Grads,” a game night inspired by “Smart Funny & Black” originally hosted by Amanda Seales. In the event, students competed by answering questions centered around “joyful generalizations around blackness,” Hill said, to be deemed the Student Master Blackspert.

“Night of Black Love” was a conversation about how students can love each other. There was also a viewing of several video clips followed by discussions regarding how students might perceive one another.

During “Open Mic Night,” there were individual karaoke performances and singalongs.

“Everybody started singing along. We found our groove and it was just a good time,” Hill said.

“Conversate: Beauty/Barber Shop” was a discussion of the Minneapolis civil unrest with speaker Dr. Zachariah Mampilly, who is an expert on political violence and African studies.

The purpose of the event was to discuss current events that have included “hard-hitting conversations about beauty, beauty standards and about supporting black businesses,” according to Hill. “For the men, we talked about how it’s taboo for black men to have long hair and there are preconceived notions about what it means.”

This week’s event was oriented towards considering what’s going on in the nation, next steps and how students should be looking at these times.

“Black Grad” was the final event of the week for students of the black community to come together to be celebrated and supported by family, friends and faculty for their accomplishments.

The events were made possible through joint efforts by the Black Male Initiative, West Indian Culture Club, Caribbean Student Association, African Student Association and the Student Organization for Caribbean Appreciation.

Planning stages also included collaboration with Columbia University which has experience hosting its own “Black Grad,” Baruch’s Division of Enrollment Management and Strategic Academic Initiatives, and the Office of Student Life.

In light of the week’s title being “Black Excellence Week,” students were asked what black excellence meant to them.

“It’s transcending all the stereotypes that are put against black people, and just being the opposite of what society wants you to be,” Teona Pagan, the incoming secretary of BSU, said. “It’s also bringing your brothers and sisters up also for the ride and using yourself to be a greater community uplifter.”

This was not the only way students chose to define black excellence.

“That resiliency, that solidarity, that integrity that black folks must have in spite of or in light of is really what I consider black excellence and being prideful about that and being unapologetically black” Jaleel Thomas, outgoing President of BSU, stated.

Students added an appeal to the Baruch community that the voices of the black community should not be silenced as they have been in the past.

“Whenever other black organizations speak out, give them the platform they deserve; support them, spread what they’re saying because it’s necessary,” Thomas requested.

Ultimately the events brought together not only the Baruch community but also others outside of the college.

“It takes a community, and not only a community within Baruch that supports Baruch students but also outside of Baruch that supports black people and black excellence” Thomas said about what it takes for growth.