Black History Month Celebrations Kick Off with Student-Faculty Mixer and BSU/GSA Collaboration

Above (left to right), Domnique Williams ’24, Georgianna (Georgie) Harpole ’25, Sakina Cotton ’24, and Marc Harrison at the student-faculty mixer.

Black, green, yellow, red, and orange fabric adorned the pillars of Samuel Phillips Hall on February 1, ushering in Black History Month at Andover. Various affinity groups hosted a number of events, including a student-faculty mixer, a movie screening, and discussion. 

Byron Johnson ’25 attended the mixer, which was hosted by the Office of Community and Multicultural Development (CaMD). Johnson expressed his appreciation for the opportunity to meet and establish connections with other Black faculty.

“I think it’s important to have those opportunities, because a lot of times, there’s a disconnect between the student body and the [faculty]… I guess there’s a level of respect between a student and a faculty, but I don’t feel like it gets past that as much as they need to. I feel like the mixer was a great opportunity to have more of a connection as a person to a person and not just a student to a faculty member, so that was really what was good about it,” said Johnson.

Casey Alexander Smith, Instructor in Studio Art and another attendee of the mixer, agreed with the importance of increased communication between students and faculty. Smith enjoyed the opportunity to connect with students and the sense of community created by the event.

“I feel strongly about faculty representation and about faculty of color and students of color mixing and coordinating and understanding each other and talking… I think [the mixer] was great in creating conversation, creating unity [and] a sense of belonging for all, as well as a beginning to Black Heritage Month… We talked about food, we talked about Black artists, and musical artists mostly. We talked about some weird [things], just personal things that happened on campus, like your favorite water on campus and stuff like that,” said Smith.

Reverend Gina Finocchiaro, Protestant Chaplain and the faculty advisor for Af-Lat-Am, attended the screening of Jordan Peele’s “Nope.” Finocchiaro discussed Peele’s commentary on white America and the ways that white supremacy showed up in the film with other attendees. 

“We talked about the way Jordan Peele as a filmmaker really does an intentional and outstanding job at breaking stereotypes of the ways that Black and Brown folks are portrayed in film. I don’t want to spoil the movie for people who haven’t seen it yet, but the main characters are absolutely people of resistance and resilience. They’re strong, empathetic characters that are deeply complicated in a way that’s really awesome,” said Finocchiaro.

This month’s celebrations were made possible by sustained collaboration between the Af-Lat-Am and Black Students Union (BSU) affinity groups. As a Co-President of Af-Lat-Am, Ajahla Jefferson ’24 outlined how the two groups worked collaboratively with fresh outputs from both sides.  

“We started meeting back in December, before the break and since we started so early, it was definitely not bad at all… We met for like an hour and [a half] in Tang every other Sunday and we figured things out with different people. We made a calendar, so people knew which dates were going on and people could volunteer for things they’re passionate about… I think both groups collaborated really well with each other,” said Jefferson. 

Georgianna Harpole ’25, a board member of BSU, expressed how they were seeking solidarity and engagement from Black and non-Black members of the community. Harpole looks forward to the upcoming Black History Month events including the Black Arts Dance on February 11, the Alumni Event and Sisterhood on February 12, and more. 

“One thing that is always the case is we’re looking to educate people. We’re looking for people to take an interest in these things, not just people who are Black. We want people to come and really appreciate the people from which a lot of popular culture comes… I’m excited for this month and I’m hoping that this is going to be a time where people can sit back and reflect on how they interact with the Black community and Black people in their life,” said Harpole.