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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Students and Faculty Celebrate Black History Month

In honor of Black History Month, members of the Black Student Center, in collaboration with the Rev. Adrienne Berry-Burton of the Campus Interfaith Chapel, organized a rally on the second floor of the McCormack building. - Photo by Steve Osemwenkhae
In honor of Black History Month, members of the Black Student Center, in collaboration with the Rev. Adrienne Berry-Burton of the Campus Interfaith Chapel, organized a rally on the second floor of the McCormack building. – Photo by Steve Osemwenkhae

Last Tuesday about 60 students and faculty gathered on the second floor of McCormack in honor of Black History Month. The February 10 gathering, put on by the Black Student Center in collaboration with the Interfaith Chapel’s Reverend Adrienne Berry-Burton, was intended to celebrate and educate and featured speeches by members of UMB’s African American community and the musical stylings of the UMB Gospel Choir.

Aminah Pilgrim, UMass Africana Studies professor, opened up the event by describing what Black History Month meant to her as a professor and as an African American. “It is an occasion to bring to light many facts and aspects of black history which have been kept in the dark for so many years…It is an opportunity to take pain and oppression and turn it into passion and hope.”

Following Pilgrim’s introduction was the Rev. Berry-Burton, director of the UMB Gospel Choir. Berry-Burton spoke about both famous and not-so-famous leaders in black history. She began with the well-known story of Rosa Parks, a woman who took a stand for civil rights by refusing to get up from her bus seat when told to move to the back and make room in the front for whites. This was followed by the story of Viola Gregg Liuzzo, a lesser-known figure who lost her life in the aftermath of the historic 1965 Selma to Montgomery, Alabama march that was organized by Dr. King.

Liuzzo was horrified by the police violence she had seen on television and went to Selma to help, where she shuttled people to and from the airport in Montgomery. On a return trip from dropping people off she was chased down by four members of the KKK and murdered. One man was given immunity when he agreed to testify against the other three. The others were all given ten years in prison, but not one was convicted of murder. One woman protested by refusing to move, the other by refusing to stay put, but both were important to the civil rights movement. Berry-Burton concluded by stating, “Together we can step out from what has been and create what should be.”

Following the two speakers, the UMB Gospel Choir performed several songs, including “Amazing Grace,” a song which Berry-Burton noted was deeply rooted in African music. As the choir sang, black history pencils and booklets were distributed and a wide array of food was served. The talented James Bynum, who got the crowd clapping their hands and waving their arms to the inspirational words of Donnie McClurkin, capped off the musical performance with a solo. “Yes I can…Yes I can do anything if I try…Yes I can, but I have to believe.”