In 2009, actor and human rights activist Danny Glover performed a two-man play at Pacific with longtime friend and fellow actor Felix Justice. The play, "An Evening with Langston and Martin."

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Campus Life

Celebrating Black History Month

By Rhashad PittmanFeb 3, 2012
"I've known rivers: I've known rivers ancient as the world and older than the flow of human blood in human veins. My soul has grown deep like the rivers ..."
-- "The Negro Speaks of Rivers" by Langston Hughes

Actor Danny Glover echoed those words while reciting a poem about struggle and overcoming hardships. CNN Journalist Soledad O'Brien quoted text from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s last speech. Author, actor and motivational speaker Hill Harper demanded everyone in the audience write down their biggest goals - and to dream bigger!

Some of the most prominent names in Hollywood, journalism, academia and the music industry have helped celebrate Black History Month at Pacific, including scholar Dr. Cornell West, director Spike Lee, rapper Chuck D and cartoonist Aaron McGruder.

When Grammy award-winning singer/songwriter India.Arie graces the stage later this month, she will continue the tradition, now more than a decade old. As this year's keynote speaker, the R&B artist will share her inspirational message during a lecture and performance on Saturday, Feb. 18.

It's one of two dozen events planned for the month, which also includes a gospel concert, college awareness and financial aid workshop, film series, roundtable discussions and poetry reading. The events encompass a celebration that pays homage to those of African ancestry who fought injustice in the face of lynchings, hostile mobs and segregation. The celebration helps keep the legacies alive of those who lived through a nightmare so future generations could enjoy the American dream.

"This one month of the year has been set aside so that all Americans can honor the past of a people who were brought to this country in political bondage," says Cris Clay, a Pacific graduate and director of our Community Re-entry Program. "This month allows each and every American to celebrate the rich traditions of African Americans, while at the same time celebrating those aspects of their own culture around their own positive contributions to society."

Cris Clay

Black History Month Photo Gallery

The passion and wisdom of influential speakers have inspired our students throughout celebrations over the years. Take a look at past moments that we've captured... more

Roots of Celebration

About 12 years ago, we began holding a formal, university-wide celebration.  The celebration was mainly funded by a multi-year grant awarded by the James Irvine Foundation to promote diversity. After the grant ended, student organizations such as the Black Student Union (BSU) and various university departments stepped up to keep the tradition alive.

Each year, a carefully selected theme guides the month's speakers and events. The themes are based on one of the seven principles of Kwanzaa, a week-long holiday honoring African-American heritage.

A planning committee made up of students, faculty, staff and alumni plans the celebrations and meets year round to ensure the month accomplishes the group's overall mission of education and enrichment.

India.Arie will perform at the Bob
Hope Theatre on Feb. 18

As a result of the group's efforts, and the financial support across the University, the celebrations have grown tremendously over the years, particularly the major events. Our annual gospel concert started with a few local acts and attracted slightly more than 50 people. Today, several hundred regularly attend the concert. Not long ago, Gospelfest was held at one of the largest churches in Stockton and featured nationally-known artist Marvin Sapp, who performed before more than 1,000 people.

For this year's keynote lecture, India.Arie will speak and perform at the Bob Hope Theatre in downtown Stockton. The venue seats 2,000 people, more than double the  capacity at Pacific's Faye Spanos Concert Hall, where the lecture is usually held.

Honoring History and Heritage

Despite the high profile speakers who are involved with our Black History Month celebration, the focus remains on honoring those of African ancestry who have made indelible contributions to society. Each year, the celebration begins with a libation ceremony, which involves a ceremonial pouring of a liquid to honor past African American trailblazers, such as civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., scholar W.E.B. DuBois and abolitionist Sojourner Truth.

The month ends with a dinner where those who worked tirelessly throughout the month celebrate its success, many with family members by their side. They also take time to reflect on those trailblazers whose legacies they help keep alive.

Alex Savage

"Every year we aim to honor those who came before us," said business student Alexandrea Savage '12. "We may be a small part of Pacific's population but the impact that Black History Month makes on this campus is a unique one each and every year."




Although perhaps the oldest and most visible, Black History Month is simply one of a number of month-long heritage celebrations that take place at Pacific annually. Others include Latino Heritage Month, Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month, and Women's History Month.

To learn more about Black History Month go to:

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about the author

Rhashad Pittman   Rhashad Pittman is the media relations coordinator at Pacific.

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