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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Student Clubs Showcasing the Spirit of Black History Month

Weekes, co-ordinator of the BSC, believes the different black clubs on campus are united



In the midst of the Black History Month, Cassandra Fenelon, the president of the Haitian American Society (HAS), Isaac Weekes, Coordinator of the Black Student Center, (BSC) and Jojo Mawejje, the president of the African Student Union (ASU) highly rate their relationship with each other, referring to it as being the “state of a perfect union.”

This is a good message to send out to UMass Boston community members, the surrounding area and to the media—which often portrays relationships within  black demographics as being marked by division, hatred and bitter history.

ASU, BSC and HAS are all united even though each of them has a different spot, much like banana leaves which grow separately, but from the same tree. If the leaves mean to die, they do so together at the feet of the mother plant.

“We work more on collaboration than we do on separation,” said Weekes. HAS and ASU are more like entities of BSC, not groups of protesters. Weekes continues to argue that, for instance, HAS promotes awareness of Haitian culture and ASU aims at influencing the discourse on Africa at UMass Boston and the community at large. They both operate in a way in which they can all reach their primary purpose: educating communities about black culture.

BSC provides a central space for students of African descent and other ethnic groups to develop academically and socially by promoting a positive self-image through facilitating access to their history and culture. In this way the different black clubs at UMass Boston, whether or not they share the same points of view, do not harbor any animosity toward each other. They are simply confirming their differences.

Chinelo Ejueyitchie, professor in the Department of African Studies at UMass Boston, said on the topic of the clubs’ differences, “They need to celebrate not only their shared history and their similarities but also their difference as well as.” Ejueyitchie explained that it is important and beneficial to have different African descent clubs on campus, so everyone can feel a sense of belonging.

As she put it, “What makes an African-American an African American is not what makes a Haitian-American a Haitian American.”

Mawejje agreed that the existence of different clubs on campus is vital because there is far too much for any one club to cover. “There are 52 countries in Africa. [ASU] is simply trying to embrace and promote the major core component of those cultures.” Many programs are organized to inspire and inform the UMass Boston community about these diverse cultures, including symposiums, movie nights, and inviting speakers.

Mawejje also believes that different clubs focusing on different issues allows each to learn about the other, ultimately leading to a better shared understanding and generates a deeper connection among. She said, “It was not until I was in college that I got to learn things about the Haitian culture.”  Without HAS, she reflected that she would probably have not have learned about compas, enjoyed Haitian music, or experienced drinking joumou (pumpkin soup), which is of great significance in the Haitian culture

Professor Ejueyitchie, in a similar vein, pointed out that historically most blacks come from different backgrounds, having been divided by colonization. It is a necessity for them to learn about and to teach one another. She concluded, “Ignorance is the only thing that can damage our relationship.”

Cassandra Fenelon extolled the cooperation of the clubs and that part of the reason her club has been successful organizing events is due to Weekes and Madejje always supporting her. Fenelon’s club promotes awareness through events such as TCHAKA night, (Together Creating Haitian American Knowledge and Awareness) and in volunteering with AFAB, (Asosiyasyon Fanm Ayisyen nan Boston) which is the Association of Haitian Women in Boston.

“Weekes is actually a guy who speaks more Creole than I do,” concluded Cassandra about the smooth relationship that exists within her club and with BSC. “There is no discrimination among us, nor will there be any … We are family-oriented because we know that we are all from the same race and share a common destiny.”

Like millions of trees which are all rooted in one and the same earth, African and African-American students at Umass Boston are rooted in one and the same universal racial being.  Through their common identity they support each other.