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A&S Office of Graduate Studies hosts inaugural Black History Month Kick-Off Event 

| Staff Writer

The College of Arts & Sciences Office of Graduate Studies (OGS) hosted a kick-off event to celebrate the start of Black History Month from 7-9 p.m. in Tisch Commons, Feb. 1. This is the first time that Washington University has held an event recognizing the start of Black History Month.

The event was a collaboration between the OGS with the Center for Diversity and Inclusion (CDI), The Graduate Center, and the Black Graduate Student Association (BGSA). It featured a performance from the Unending Praise gospel a capella group, food from local St. Louis restaurants, and exhibits prepared by undergraduate and graduate students that focused on aspects of Black culture. 

Attendees were given a Green Book pamphlet that represented the travel guides compiled by postal worker Victor Green during the pre-civil rights era. The original Green Book guides were published from 1936 until 1966 and provided a list of businesses and hotels where Black travelers would be welcomed during the time of segregation.  

Event attendees could then take their Green Book pamphlets to the four location-based exhibits to get their books stamped. Each exhibit was focused on an aspect of Black culture and contributions in either the South, Midwest, West, and Eastern regions of the United States. 

Tiana Johnson is on the Executive Board of the BGSA and explained the objective of holding the inaugural Black History Month kick-off event.

“We came together with all of the other partners to create something where everybody could engage with black history, culture, and heritage and just learn more about us and who we are,” Johnson said.

Nia Hodges, a graduate student in the McKelvey School of Engineering, was on the planning committee for the kick-off event and is a member of BGSA. She prepared the exhibit centered on Black culture in the South, having grown up there and attended a historically black university for her undergraduate degree. 

She said that she wanted to convey information about the diversity of the South that people aren’t aware of.

“I tailored the facts on my poster to reflect the fact that each state [in the South] is unique, and I was really hoping to convey that diversity,” Hodges said.

First-year Mary Kesete attended the event with friends after seeing an Instagram post from the CDI about it. She said she enjoyed visiting the exhibits prepared by fellow students. 

“It’s really great to see African Americans being recognized and celebrated for their contributions to the U.S. I learned a lot from the timelines on the exhibits,” Kesete said. 

Director of Cross-Cultural Connections, Jordan Cooper, delivered the welcome address in which she emphasized the variety of organizations that collaborated to hold the event and how these organizations can serve as resources for Black students at WashU.

“Get connected to the student organizations for undergraduate and graduate students because this campus can be lonely to navigate alone, ” Cooper said. “Y’all have a lot of wisdom from your campus experiences and various life experiences that can be very valuable when brought together.”    

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