In 1926, African American historian and scholar Carter G. Woodson introduced “Negro History Week” to contemporary educational institutions of the time with the aim of sensitizing society to African American history. 50 years later, in 1976, President Gerald Ford expanded the holiday to encompass all of February under the title Black History Month — a holiday students, alumni, staff and affiliates at Drexel have been celebrating over the last few weeks with events that explore and appreciate Black history.
According to the 2010 census, 76.2 percent of West Philadelphia’s population is non-Hispanic Black or African American. The surrounding community’s demographics inspired the Drexel Black Graduate Student Union to create “The Remix,” a series of organized discussions that take a new spin on community issues and Drexel’s celebration of Black History Month. Powelton Village and Mantua’s communities are the heartbeat of the Remix series, according to Jeana Morrison, President of DBGSU, an organization with about 45 active members.
During “The Remix” event held Feb. 18, DBGSU facilitated a conversation about the impact of media on the self-esteem of people of color. The event focused on two questions primarily: how and why we engage media and how media impact us. “It was really cool to sit down, listen and learn,” Isaac Singleton, a Marketing sophomore, said. The success of February’s edition has all parties excited of what’s to come.
The purpose of “The Remix” is to initiate conversation around topics relating to black history and bring a new perspective. This new perspective created is more inclusive and that’s “the remix” — or the new thing — coming from something that already exists, according to Morrison.
“The remix is a way to bridge resources for all involved. The remix provides access not to just money or a big name but access to safe spaces to communicate, interact, be heard, and then plan for action,” Morrison added.
The series was given its title by Andrew Issa, the liaison between DBGSU and the Dana and David Dornsife Center for Neighborhood Partnerships. When deciding on topics for the series, Issa and Morrison brought their knowledge of current events to the table. Morrison discussed what’s happening at the university and Issa discussed what’s happening in the community and together they decided on which topics to discuss at the monthly series. The discussions will extend beyond Black History Month. On the last Thursday of each month hence, similar discussions will be held at the Dornsife Center. Next month’s topic is “Love and Enterprise in the Black community: The Action Plan.” April’s topic is “Gentrification.”
“Conversation is a very important part of life in general. People should be critical of what’s going on around them and recognize that there are multiple experiences and perspectives that exist out there and that should not be threatening,” Morrison said.
Although some of “The Remix” topics can be seen as controversial, conversations help to bring out complexity and perhaps offer a way to try and understand or at least accept it, Morrison clarified. Morrison joined Drexel Black Graduate Student Union as a means of support to overcome the lack of diversity within her program. Her involvement began when she joined as a member. Later, she moved up to become program chair and, finally, president.
DBGSU looks forward to hosting another Black History Month next year where it will continue to surprise the university with creative spins on the way in which Drexel celebrates Black History Month.