Black History Month: Celebrating, Learning, and Sharing
By Josh Golden, Student Intern
Every year in February, Spartanburg Methodist College celebrates Black History Month. This provides students, faculty, and staff the chance to commemorate the strong, leading voices in the Black community. It’s also an opportunity for students to participate in multiple Black History Month events.
SMC hosted several events, including a professional attire event, a Sip n’ Paint, Financial Literacy: SMC Monopoly, and conversations with a Black man (focusing on mental health and racism). These events were planned and implemented by Allyson Brown, Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.
Bow Ties with the Pres, a professional attire lesson, kicked off what would be a great month of events. Aimed at educating young, black men about tying a tie, Brown, Dr. DeAndre Howard, and President Scott Cochran served as a backbone for students who were learning this skill for the very first time. As part of the program, students learned how to tie both traditional and bow ties. They even got to choose a tie to keep.
The Sip n’ Paint event was held on Valentine’s Night in partnership with SCM Dining Services, SMCX, and the SMC Art Department. Despite the holiday, a majority of the students who registered for the event showed up. Held in The Cellar coffee shop, students sipped on some good Starbucks while showing off their art skills. The students honored a prominent figure in the black community: the late, great Kobe Bryant by painting his likeness on a small canvas. Josh Holt, Director of Arts Enrichment at SMC, led the art activity and encouraged and assisted students all night.
Students expanded on their thoughts post-event. In a brief interview, one student said, “It was honestly amazing. I’m so happy to see people of color coming together and celebrating a huge icon in the black community.”
Another student said “It was a great event to honor a prominent figure and also practice our painting skills. Not to mention the free Starbucks.”
The next event, Financial Literacy: SMC Monopoly, was hosted by Allyson Brown, Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. She focused on highlighting the larger challenge African American students have in paying student loan debt than their white counterparts. Also in attendance was Darby Tippit, a counselor in the financial aid office. She shared a slide show explaining the basics of financial aid, including the differences between subsidized and unsubsidized loans. Most students typically have a hard time telling the two apart. This was followed by a game of Monopoly. Students enjoyed the game and learned how to make sound financial choices and invest in properties.
Livingston Hawkins, a junior, said that he found both the Sip n’ Paint and the Financial Literacy events fun. “The events were fun and a way to commemorate this important month.” He went on to say that he “would love to see more events like this for different celebrations in the future.”
“My goal was to have a variety of activities with some being serious and others being light-hearted and fun,” Brown said about planning the Black History Month events. When asked about her overall thoughts, she said there we a lot of events she wanted to do but she could only do so much with the resources available. There were a total of six events.
When asked about how she felt students received the events, Brown said she had a QR code for students to scan at the end of each event for students to provide feedback. She hoped this would help her determine what did and did not work. The goal is to apply the feedback to future events.
Finally, she revealed the events that resonated with her the most. However, she could not pick just one event as all the events were an awesome time for her. Allyson came to the decision to say that the Paint n’ Sip shared the number one spot with Conversations with a Black Man. She shared the Paint n’ Sip was the highest attended event and that made her happy to see students take an interest with that. The conversations with a black man were also a favorite of hers as that was a time for vulnerability to show itself in the conversations of mental health and racism when it came to the black men here on campus.
Black History Month is a time to reflect on the iconic figures of yesterday while recognizing the iconic figures of today and tomorrow. Every February, SMC makes it a priority to bring awareness of the black student population by sharing not only the students’, but the ancestors’ stories. The opportunity is also extended to everyone to learn more about the heritage of black students. The activities such as the bow tie event, community conversations and others are initiated to inform students about the lives of very prominent figures within the black community. The anticipation for Black History Month 2023 is already building up.