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ISSUE 116 VOL 12 PUBLISHED 2/28/2003

Black History Month celebrates cultural balance in community

By Julie Gunderson
News Editor

Friday, February 28, 2003

Even with the cancellation of keynote speaker Sonia Sanchez, this year’s celebration of African-American history offered a wide variety of opportunities for students and community members to partake in.

Sanchez, an established author and speaker on black culture and literature, was supposed to kick off the college’s month-long schedule of events on Feb. 10.

She was forced to cancel due to a family emergency. Sanchez was rescheduled for Feb. 24, but came down with bronchitis and was unable to make the speaking engagement.

Nevertheless, events pushed forward without Sanchez and a keynote speaker for the month..

Open Mic Night at the Larson Coffee House Feb. 13 drew an audience that discussed issues of African-American history, such as segregation and racism.

Two busloads of students went to the University of Minnesota to watch a step dance show on Feb. 15 put on by college organizations.

On Feb. 21, the Pause held its own Hip-Hop dance featuring Tri-PCV.

Providing variety for students was important for event organizers when considering what kinds of activities to put on the schedule.

"There has been an emphasis on balance when planning the events," said William Green, assistant dean, director of multicultural affairs and community outreach (MACO). "We try to gear them more to what is going on with today’s culture and to be sensitive to the community at large."

Students and community members also shared a "Soul Food" theme meal in Stav Hall on Feb. 16.

Items on the menu included fried catfish, hominy grits, collard greens, candied yams, blackeye peas and other cultural dishes.

"It was the best meal of the year," Kori Zinsmeister ‘04 said. "They need to have food like that more often."

Organizers also showed the powerful film “Get on the Bus,” which tells the story of 18 men who board a bus which is headed for the historic Million Man March.

The college’s Gospel Choir, which received recognition as part of the school’s music department this fall, gave a performance Wednesday during chapel service.

The group was established as a student run organization in 1988, but this year added Keith McCutchen, a music professor, as its director.

Along with campus performances, the Gospel Choir has performed at churches in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area and recorded a CD.

Green credited Hebert Washington ’03 as a catalyst for the group’s growth in recent years. Green said that prior to Washington’s arrival the choir had only 20 or 30 members, but the group has now grown to around 80 singers.

To close out the month, the college will hold a Black History Month Banquet on March 2 at 5 p.m. in the Gold Room.

The banquet will honor African-American alumni.

This year’s honorees are Nina Mattson, who works in the Office of Admissions as an admissions counselor, and Kevin Cheatham, Outward Bound program coordinator, who has been involved in the Outward Bound program.

"We are recognizing those alums that continue to have a strong connection with the college," Green said.

The student organization, Cultural Union for Black Expression, planned these events and co-sponsored them with the MACO, Political Awareness Committee, Diversity Celebrations Committee, and Student Organization Committee.

Green said that there was no immediate plans to invite Sanchez back to campus, although if a future date presents itself the college would consider getting her to come back.

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