Loyola’s Black Cultural Center (BCC) kicked off Black History Month with its event “Black Voices: Uninterrupted” last week.
The event featured 12 former and current BCC members performing songs, original poems and stand-up comedy.
“Last year we had an African dance group come and perform and do a teaching piece and this time it’s all about our members that want to share their talents,” Robin Branton, Loyola senior and BCC president, said. “We basically just wanted to give a platform for any black artist that wanted to share their talents and their excellence with the rest of the community, Loyola and beyond.”
Loyola’s BCC promotes the presence of a safe space on campus for black students, according to BCC members.
“BCC creates somewhere we can have people to relate to and to talk about things that we go through together,” Branton said.
All BCC members were welcome and encouraged to express themselves in the Black History Month celebration.
“It’s a safe space for us to speak what’s in our minds, in our hearts and in our souls, and be supported and be affirmed in that,” Joshua Webb, Loyola senior and BCC treasurer, said. He read an original poem earlier in the night.
Performances included a stand-up act by Ariana Allen, who had the crowd roaring with laughter. She recounted the days after the election of former President Barack Obama in 2008 and told stories of her childhood growing up in a black household.
“You are here for a reason, remember that,” Allen said in closing.
Graduate student Sydney Curtis performed an original piece titled “The Kingdom.” She began by reading Chicago-born poet Gwendolyn Brooks’s “We Real Cool.” Before performing, Curtis commended the BCC for all they have done at Loyola: “Your impact is felt across the university.”
Other members of the organization also spoke highly of the BCC. The group creates a community, according to members.
“BCC is one of the most important things to me on this campus. It’s my anchor in a sense, it’s what keeps me grounded,” Webb said. “I don’t know where I would be, I don’t know where a lot of black students would be without the BCC.”
Loyola first-year and BCC member Ashley Donald had a similar perspective. She described her experience with BCC while attending a predominantly white institution (PWI).
“It’s nice to go to have a space at a PWI that will be safe and somewhere you know you can always go to,” Donald said.
The presence of BCC’s members at the show created an interactive atmosphere in which the audience responded to each performer. BCC aimed to create unity at its Black History Month kick off event, according to its OrgSync page.
Black History Month isn’t just about uninterrupted voices, according to those in the black community at Loyola.
“February allows me to be able to celebrate my ancestry and the monumental things that my ancestors were able to do and able to push through,” said Hawkins. “It is a great experience.”
The performances expressed the importance of recognizing their black ancestry. Members described how their backgrounds shaped them.
“Being a black woman is a blessing in my opinion,” Hawkins said. “I feel like every accomplishment I make shows my power and strength. I love being a black woman because we’re so put down but that empowers us to want to do more, so I love that my life is a constant reminder to keep pushing myself to do more.”
Webb broached the disenfranchisement and danger a black man faces in his life.
“I just turned 22 a month ago, I am blessed to have made it this far as a black man,” Webb said. “To still be living at 22 is a blessing because of all the people who have come and fought and died before me.”
Loyola students commended BCC but said Loyola could help the group’s growth. When prompted with what Loyola could do to aide in BCC’s influence, students responded with similar desires.
Loyola first-year Vincent Oganwu asked for a broader platform.
Branton expressed that while many Loyola students of color are aware of BCC, those not of color aren’t as familiar. BCC can get lost in the shuffle, according to members.
“As of right now when people come [to Loyola], for example on tour, and ask about spaces for people of color and black students, they automatically point to Student Diversity and Multicultural Affairs, which is a great resource for students of color and minority students in general, but a lot of times the Black Cultural Center itself does not really have as large of a voice and a platform,” Branton said.
Webb asked for more administrative support in Loyola’s involvement with the club.
“We are a completely student-lead and student-run organization and more support on an administrative level would do a lot to get our events out there and to get more support for the students that call the BCC home,” Webb said.
As for BCC, there’s more to come. The group plans to celebrate Black History Month through multiple events during the month of February.
BCC is scheduled to host a women’s night Feb. 9, a sip-and-paint Feb. 15, a Guy’s Night Feb. 16, a private showing of Black Panther Feb. 18 and its annual Ebony Ball Feb. 23.
The group has biweekly meetings in their room on the first floor of Damen Student Center. Club info can be found on the profile section of the OrgSync page.