During February, four co-heads of Haverford’s Black Student League took over the college’s Instagram with a stream of black artists, music, and figures in celebration of Black History Month. This takeover, a partnership with the Office of Multicultural Affairs, is the first of its kind or magnitude in Haverford’s history. It was part of a larger set of programming by the OMA, alongside several speakers and events throughout the past month.
According to Ebony Graham ’23, the BSL co-heads were approached by Denise Allison, Assistant Dean of the OMA, last November. They were part of a larger group of students designated as the Black History Month Committee. According to Graham, they were given full freedom in their output and were compensated for their time.
Graham’s section of the takeover took the form of biweekly posts featuring Black artists. She “wanted to center people who should be known,” she said, making a note of how much harder it can be for Black artists to break into mainstream success.
Half of the artists Graham chose are globally renowned: Koffee, Bree Runway, and Steven Canals were among those featured. However, the other half of the artists highlighted throughout the month were local. “We’re in Philly,” Graham explained, “[and] if we want to claim that we should work with the community.” Orion Sun, Shanel Edwards, Tierra Whack, and James Dupree were the four local artists Graham chose to highlight. Featured works by these artists, as well as the rest of the resources shared during Black History Month, can be found here.
Jalen Martin ’23 also focused on featuring Black artists, specifically musicians. He curated three playlists in a weekly segment entitled “Black History Month Radio”— a jazz, hip-hop, and R&B edition. “Just about every genre of music derives from Black expression,” Martin wrote over email. He wanted to remind people of that. His only requirements were that the artists were of Black descent and, of course, “the song had to be a banger––all hits, no misses.”
Bilikisu Hanidu ’23 curated a fourth playlist, specifically celebrating the musical works of Black women.
The focus on Black art during the takeover wasn’t an accident. “The BHM committee decided we would focus more on Black triumph and accomplishment than Black struggle,” Martin explained. “There’s a fetish for Black trauma and we didn’t want to feed into it.”
Graham hopes that the takeover sets a new precedent for celebrating Black culture at Haverford—not just during Black History Month, but year-round. “We always should have been doing this,” she said. “There’s no way you could do it all in a month.” Despite the short duration of this takeover, Graham is hopeful the momentum will be maintained in future Black History Month programming: “I want people to ask themselves ‘OMG, what does BSL have planned this year?’”
The full takeover can be found on Haverford’s Instagram page.
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