February is Black History Month, a month where Black culture and the contributions to history by Black people are sent into the spotlight. Here at NJIT, the celebration is being headed by The Union of Black Students (TUBS), a group which is comprised of NJIT’s four most prominent black student organizations: the African Student Association (AFSA), the Black Student Union (BSU), the Caribbean Students Organization (CARIBSO) and the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE). The group organized a total of 12 events throughout the month of February – nearly one every other day – hosted by these constituent organizations as well as other Black groups on campus.
Joshua Charles, president of CARIBSO and a third-year mechanical engineering major, emphasizes the importance of celebrating Black History Month in NJIT. CARIBSO is a student group dedicated primarily to the expression of Caribbean culture and the support of Caribbean students on campus – the majority of Caribbean people possessing some degree of African heritage as a legacy of the Atlantic Slave Trade.
“As you know, the country we live in tries its hardest to downplay the struggles and triumphs of minorities, especially Black people,” said Charles. “Making sure that BHM is observed is a way to safeguard our culture from being ignored or cast aside. Black people have contributed a significant amount to pop culture, music, food, fashion, etc. So at NJIT, with its low proportion of Black students, we must give them, and others who want to learn, the time and space to do so. In addition, it lets the Black students on campus know that there are people who look like them in these STEM fields, who are paving the way to make it easier for the next student who looks like them to get an education.”
CARIBSO has conducted its own carnival event based on the traditional Pre-Lenten celebrations of many Christian nations, including most of the Americas and the Caribbean. The group considered this event to be quite the success. Charles said, “This is a classic CARIBSO event, everyone enjoyed Caribbean food, music, and dance. It was a great time throwing the event.” Snapper Game, an event that they have planned for later in the month, will give the cultural organization’s take on the popular “Squid Game” franchise and promises to be a more athletic event than their previous event.
AFSA president and senior biology major Linda Msinjili echoed many of Charles’ points regarding the importance of a Black History Month celebration on campus. “It is important to observe BHM in NJIT because the Black community makes up only a small percentage of this campus’s population. Celebrating this month by hosting these events is a way to highlight and acknowledge the presence of Black students pursuing STEM fields here at NJIT. It also informs the rest of the campus about our history.”
Its event, “Don’t Touch My Hair,” which was intended “to educate and express to people that there is beauty in Black hair,” was likewise seen to be very successful by its organizers, bringing in “a bunch of demonstrators and raffled prizes.”
NSBE and BSU have also put a large effort into the celebration. BSU hosted events like “Strengthening: Mind, Body and Soul” with the aim of helping participants “become in-tune with different aspects of yourself through journaling and affirmations” as well as the Cultural Art Exhibition, which displayed various pieces from Black artists on campus. NSBE is hosting the closing event of the month’s celebrations, the Martin Luther King Jr. Banquet. The month’s celebrations also included the Divine 9 Forum, a meeting of the nine traditionally Black national Greek organizations.
Additionally, all four of the organizations worked jointly on many events throughout the month under the TUBS banner, such as the “Love and Relationships” discussion held on Valentine’s Day, and their upcoming Family Feud event, which will pitch representatives from the four groups against one another in competition.
Black History Month has provided spectacular opportunity for the Black organizations on campus to express themselves. Luckily, for those interested in more events, all the mentioned clubs hold events throughout the year and not just in the month of February, so be sure to check out their upcoming events!