Black History Month at Baruch focuses on ‘Family, Representation and Resilience’

Black+History+Month+Graphic

Amanda Salazar | The Ticker

Emanuela Gallo, News Editor

Baruch College celebrated Black History Month through a variety of events that focused on its theme of “Family, Representation and Resilience.”

“The goal of BHM 2021 is to provide opportunities to educate on, celebrate and advocate for the diversity that exists in the world today,” the Office of Student Life said on its website.

The month began with the opening ceremony on Feb. 2, which was co-sponsored by the Department of Black and Latino Studies.

Students had the choice of attending several breakout rooms, including a game room with Black student organizations, a poetry workshop and a session about Black media history.

Social events such as the “CUNY-Wide Back to School Bash” on Feb 4. connected students with one another across campuses.

During “Black Family Feud” on Feb. 11, attendees played a Kahoot game, as well as Family Feud games about Black culture and history. The event was unfortunately zoom-bombed.

“In our effort to have a space that acknowledges Black unity, Black love and the Black experience, someone purposely went out of their way to harm our event,” Jamel Coy Hudson, a lecturer of rhetoric and public advocacy in the Communication Studies department, said. “But yet we persevered and still had many other events throughout the month of February.”

During “Carnival/Carnaval! Celebrating the Great Afro-Latinx Tradition in the Americas” on Feb. 18, Baruch professors discussed the background behind this tradition from Latin America and the Caribbean.

BLS Open House: Celebrating 50 Years of BLS@Baruch” on Feb. 18 informed students about any opportunities available within the Department of Black and Latino Studies.

Professional events such as “Spring into Success Network” on Feb. 8 and “Toolkit Tuesday” on Feb. 23 focused on guiding students to success.

Titled If I Ruled the World,” the event focused on understanding the use of power and influence. Temesgen Tocruray​, project director of social emotional learning at research foundation of CUNY, creative arts team, was the facilitator.

“Toolkit Tuesday is something that we do every month, that is in partnership with the CUNY Creative Arts Team,” PJ Hill, TRYBE program manager and staff member for Office of the Vice President for Enrollment Management and Strategic Academic Initiatives, said. “We have a facilitator come out and organize different facilitations. This month, it was on leadership. We talked about how power works and how those dynamics work in the workplace.”

The “Toolkit Tuesday” events are held by TRYBE, a drop-in peer mentoring program under Baruch BMI that provides socio-emotional programming and academic enhancement support and tutoring.

Success and Giving Back: The Black Experience” on Feb. 23 featured a panel of Baruch alumni speaking about the excellent work in their careers.

“We had four different alumni members come in and speak a little bit about how important it is to give back to the community and on how important it is to lift as you climb,” National Association of Black Accountants president, senior finance major and CUNY BMI student ambassador Kaiyell Pettie said.

Black entrepreneurs showcased their business and spoke about their journey in the business field at the “Black Business Expo” on Feb. 25.

The closing event, “Starr Career Development Center Diversity Career Expo,” on Feb. 26 featured a keynote speaker, breakout room discussions and a two-hour mini career fair.

“A variety of companies discussed the importance of diversity and equity and how they were taking steps to increase it in their workspace,” Joshua Bennett, a junior and BMI student ambassador, said. He is also the founder and president of the Black and Latinx Leadership Council.

Many BHM events focused on conversations with Black students and alumni about issues that the community faces.

Every Friday in February, conversations with Black professionals including Cidra Sebastien, Jibreel Jalloh, Priscilla Plat and Zamir Ben-Dan were streamed live on Instagram.

Pettie was the host of these Instagram Live Sessions.

“These were informal 30-minute conversations with alumni members from Baruch, who are doing amazing things in the community in terms of social impact or equity,” he said.

Baruch alum Vidal Peoples, who is also a licensed securities and wealth manager, discussed how to invest in the Black dollar at “Black Generational Wealth” on Feb. 16.

A Walk in My Shoes: A Conversation with Black Sons and Fathers” on Feb. 17 was a collaboration between the Robert C. Weaver Society and Baruch’s chapter of BMI.

The event was facilitated by Dr. Gary Dillon, a student psychological counselor in the Counseling Center who hosts mental health and wellness sessions for Black students titled “Black Mental Health Matters.”

“I and Mr. Andrew Lawton, a SEEK Counselor, invited our fathers on campus,” Hudson said. “We had a conversation with our dads with everyone else present, acknowledging our fathers for the great roles they’ve had in raising us as young Black men. They gave their insight as to how they parented Black boys becoming Black men in the world.”

BMI works to increase, encourage and support inclusion and educational success of students from groups that are severely underrepresented in higher education.

“The goal of BMI is to have better relations and connections among the Black community whether that be Baruch-wide or CUNY-wide,” Pettie said.

It specifically works to improve the enrollment, retention, overall GPA and graduation rate of African American, Black, Caribbean and Latinx students.

“It provides our Black student body with structure and organization,” Bennett said. “We work with most of the Black organizations. Within our mission is to bring more Black students to Baruch but also have them stay, feel comfortable and put them in leadership positions.”

BMI’s model is structured under six different pillars, including socio-emotional programming, diversity and recruitment, academic enhancements, institutional commitment, culturally competent peer-to-peer mentoring and an advisory committee.

“Through these six pillars, we’re able to leverage our networks in Baruch and throughout the community to provide our students with a holistic experience,” Hill said.

Its next “Toolkit Tuesday” event is titled “Computer Love: Focusing on the nuances of communicating in a digital age” and will occur on March 30.

Another event that Baruch BMI holds regularly is “The B-Shops,” such as the Let’s Talk: Mental Health & Wellness event on December 10th.

“It is a discussion like you would have at a barbershop [or beauty shop],” Bennett said. “It is a very tight-knit, close, and comfortable space to speak on various topics.”

The next “The B-Shops” event will focus on physical health.

“To me, BHM is a reminder of progression, like 50 years ago, people like us couldn’t be certain places, and now we dominate the culture and all these aspects of the world” Jordan Mills, a senior English major and BMI TRYBE student ambassador, said.

Bennett echoed these thoughts about Black History Month.

“I reminisce and think about what our ancestors have done for us to be in the position that we are in,” he said. “Black history is American history. It’s not just one month, it’s a part of the history and the foundation of America.”