Student Life

SAU Celebrates Black History Month

(Photo courtesy of Malu Coelho)

At St. Ambrose University, students, faculty, and staff celebrate Black History month and organize events to showcase achievements of African Americans and their impact on U.S. history.  

Arayah Westmoreland, a member of SAU Black Student Union, says “Black History month it’s about getting to remember our activists that served in our community and also teaching the youth our history, so they continue on this journey of fighting through racism and discrimination.”

SAU has been organizing marches, documentaries, and displays to raise awareness towards Black culture, in order of the celebration of Black History Month.

“It is relevant to emphasize why this time of the year should receive everybody’s attention”, says Fritz Dieudonné, Coordinator of Student Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (D.E.I.) at St. Ambrose. “The importance of celebrating the Black History month is so black culture can be able to really celebrate our excellence versus only talking about our struggle, or the struggle we have overcome. For me, it is telling that part of the black experience from those that contributed greatly to society.”

Black Student Union (BSU) in a partnership with the D.E.I. has built a display that will go around campus during the entire month of February. It highlights significant black figures throughout the history of the Quad Cities, the State of Iowa, and beyond. 

Moreover, there was an exhibition of the documentary King in The Wilderness showcased in the Rogalski Center in early February. Ryan Saddler, the Associate Vice President for D.E.I., talked about the signs that people wore during the Memphis sanitation strike in 1968 saying, “I am a man”, and protesting against the difference of payment between people of color and white people. He compliments talking about how those have an impact on the celebration of Black History month nowadays:

“Being thought of less than a man, goes back to slavery when black people in this country were looked at as 3/5 of a person, yet we are still having the conversation where there are some individuals that do not feel like they are viewed as a full human being because of the color of their skin.”

“So, for me it is a little sensitive that we still have individuals with those realities. Until we get to the point that no one feels like they are treated as less than a person, I think we need to continue to push the envelope and push this idea of celebrating or educating on Black History.”

Students get together at the basement of Cosgrove before initiating the ‘Silent March’, one of the events promoted by the school for the Civil Rights Week. (Photo courtesy of Ryan Saddler)

Another exciting event for this time of the year is the Big 12 Conference, Feb. 29th to March 2nd. Westmoreland talks about her expectations, “The Big 12 Conference is when black student unions across the country get together in a huge conference and students get to know black activists and amazing people that want to share their stories. I am extremely excited to meet new people and be surrounded by my community.”

Although the number of people participating have increased compared to the past years, Saddler says, “We would always love to see more students in any of the events we do because they are events that are educational and goes beyond the classroom.”

Arielle Williams, the president of the Black Student Union, agrees and argues that the institution should highlight more of Black History Month and its importance. “Things I would like to see more from the university, would be more inclusiveness meaning more decorations in buildings and at the cafeteria, more effort put in Black History Month as a whole, and more engagement from faculty, staff and students, to make it feel that it is Black History Month on campus.”

After acknowledging the dimension of the importance of this period, SAU students still have the opportunity to look for the display around campus and participate in other exhibitions offered by BSU and the D.E.I. Office throughout the month.