I’d like to preface this article by recognizing that I come from a position of privilege. As a white man, my experiences and opinions should not be construed as to overshadow the lived realities of people of color. As an ally, I hope to encourage continued conversation over these incredibly important subjects.
The rich history and legacy of Black History Month has only become more relevant to the political climate over the past year. Police brutality, racial inequality and the polarization of ideologies have exposed the systematic prejudice that people of color across the country endure on a daily basis. Such realities should be at the forefront of an institution that prides itself on the values of the Sisters of Mercy, with one of their critical concerns being racism. Given the constraints imposed by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Mercyhurst has made some respectable efforts at continuing the longstanding tradition of recognizing and celebrating Black History Month. Advertisements for social change workshops, cultural awareness calendars and movie screenings that feature post-viewing discussions all offer members of the Mercyhurst community the opportunity to engage with the ongoing dialogue concerning racial justice. I understand the difficulty of advertising these events, as we’ve transitioned away from paper flyers and towards digital posts. I can also see how social distancing and limited gatherings can create difficulties when trying to facilitate these intimate discussions.
Bearing this in mind, I believe that Mercyhurst’s celebration of Black History Month has room for improvement. Many of the events proposed by Mercyhurst sounded informative and exciting, but information about them was not widely available, and it was difficult to register for them. For instance, the front page of the Student Hub featured infographics on a showing of “12 Years a Slave,” a movie about the memoirs of Solomon Northrup. A brief instruction below the picture indicated that one could click on the image or copy and paste an associated link. After trying both methods, I found that the movie was unavailable. I had hoped I could watch the movie at any time, but it was only available for a certain period. Similarly, a post advertised an upcoming Social Change Workshop Series, focusing on components such as advocacy, organizing, lobbying and transformative conversations. Hoping to receive additional information about these opportunities, I was disappointed to find that there was no link to an introductory video as the post had promised. These occurrences are representative of larger issues. While Mercyhurst made great strides in providing a framework for celebrating Black History Month, the delivery something to be desired.
Obstacles are to be expected and the occasional hiccup does not render these initiatives useless. In fact, had I the chance to properly utilize these resources, I have reason to believe they would have been captivating and beneficial. Notwithstanding these disappointments, I hope that Mercyhurst is able to capitalize on this momentum to build on what worked while fixing what didn’t, and ensure that the drive for substantive change is continued beyond Feb. 28.