Afrikan Heritage Month Opening Ceremony Honors Legacy and Art of Professor Edward M. Bostick

Media Center Director Vinton Melbourne
Media Center Director Vinton Melbourne. See more photos from the event.

February 2, 2023

Students, faculty and staff from across Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC/CUNY) filled the breezeway outside Theatre One on February 1, at 199 Chambers Street for the opening ceremony of the 2023 Afrikan Heritage monthBlack Futurity, Mining the Past, Cultivating the Present, and Shaping Tomorrowcelebration.

Prof. Blake
Professor James Blake

The event was both joyous and compelling, featuring dance performance, music, historical recollections as well as stirring words of inspiration. But the room grew still as Professor James Blake led a moment of silence for the family of Tyre Nichols, the 29-year-old Black man who died after being brutally beaten by five police officers, and whose funeral took place that same day in Memphis.

In his remarks, BMCC President Anthony E. Munroe said Afrikan Heritage month would offer an array of events, many of them in-person, focused on the arts, science, technology, politics and justice, all through the lens of people of Black descent.

“We are recognizing not only the strength, determination and resilience of peoples of African descent and African diaspora, but the richness, depth and diversity of our contributions to this world, this nation, to this community and to this College,” said President Munroe. “This is a chance for us to learn about and experience the many contributions of Black people, including our colleagues and peers, that are often overlooked, under-acknowledged, under-appreciated and forgotten, and often pushed to the side and ignored.”

BMCC’s Afrikan Heritage month’s opening ceremony was also an occasion to honor the legacy and art of beloved Academic Literacy and Linguistics Professor Edward M. Bostick, who passed away in 2022.  Born in Beaufort, South Carolina, Bostick, who taught at BMCC for 47 years, was a self-taught quilt maker who came from a long line of quiltmakers that included his grandmother and several aunts. Intrigued by the tradition of brilliant colors and the geometrical applications of quilting, Bostick also sought to convey the art form’s role in the historic legacy of southern African American women.

For several years, Bostick collaborated with BMCC Media Center Director and artist Vinton Melbourne who would paint or draw on cotton cloth that Bostick would then sew into quilts. Together, they created more than 200 pictorial quilts including vibrant photos of well-known African American leaders and entertainment figures, some of which are on display throughout the month of February in the breezeway.

“Professor Bostick was among other things an educator, a mentor and a quilter,” said Melbourne. “Professor Bostick and I worked hand in glove to blend painting and quilting to showcase historical African American portraits in quilt form and to reveal and maintain an art form that relates to the cultural legacy of famous African Americans.”

Melbourne explained that Bostick wanted to recognize a variety of African Americans and their wide-reaching roles in U.S. history.

“Not just famous, cultural and political figures, but scientists, writers and everyday people who made a difference,” said Melbourne. “With a picture in hand, I’d paint the image for the quilt. He quilted them after I painted them. What you see on this wall {in the breezeway} is part of what we created together.”

“What is mining the past?” asked BMCC Student Government Association President Carlene Nelson who also spoke. “It is fully understanding the content and context of the past to inform our current decisions.  We need to read books, not just today’s tweet or Facebook post. We need to take classes and talk with our elders and seek to understand through literature, more than just the superficial, beyond the comfortable, white-washed, sanitized version of the past that is amplified in too many educational spaces.”

Nelson said that was precisely why she enrolled in courses such as BMCC Professor Syreeta McFadden’s English 401 course where she researched and then wrote a paper on abolitionist, social reformer and statesman Frederick Douglas.  It was also why, while part of the GUIDE program at New York University, she took a course that focused on the colonial invention of Race.

“We cultivate the present by showing up, by staying engaged, by being intentional in our fight for equity, inclusion and justice,” said Nelson. “Showing up and cultivating the present helps us realize we have so much in common, and that together we can affect change and create a more just society.”

To see all of the events coming up for BMCC’s Afrikan Heritage Month, visit the calendar.

BMCC’s heritage months relate to BMCC’s Strategic Plan, including but not limited to Strategic Action 6.9: Demonstrate leadership and a commitment to increase equity, foster inclusion, and dismantle systematic racism

  • Ceremony was first among an array of events including film, art and panel discussions scheduled throughout February
  • Professor Bostick and Media Art Center Director Vinton Melbourne’s collaborated together on quilts
  • This year’s theme is Black Futurity, Mining the Past, Cultivating the Present, and Shaping Tomorrow

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