African Heritage and Black History Month at BMCC kicked off on Wednesday, with an afternoon filled with fun, music, festivities—and giveaways!
The Opening Celebration, held in the Main Lobby Promenade, as well as the other African Heritage and Black History Month events, were organized by committee members, which included BMCC staffers and faculty members.
Middle-school students were invited to the Opening Celebration for a very special reason—they are students at I.S. 223 (Montauk Intermediate), BMCC’s “adopted” school—and they performed songs that celebrated heritage and culture.
Last year, through PENCIL partnership program—an organization that builds relationships between principals to inspire innovation and transform public schools—BMCC officially took Montauk Intermediate of Brooklyn under its wing, as a mentor.
The young students were excited to spend time on a college campus, and enjoyed all the Opening Ceremony entertainment.
Young, smiling faces
After the middle school band and choir performed in front of a happy crowd of BMCC students, on a nearby screen scrolled pictures of prominent people of African heritage, such a President Barack Obama.
“Just like BMCC, we have a diverse group of students at our school—maybe future BMCC students,” said Kathlyn Barrett-Layne, Assistant Principal at Montauk Intermediate, before introducing her school’s band and choir to the audience.
She also encouraged BMCC students to “come on down” to Borough Park and “help these young people anytime you’d like to do some tutoring.”'
Embracing all culturesBMCC President Dr. Antonio Pérez also spoke at the Opening Ceremony.
“February is African American Heritage Month” he said. “And we embrace it because we embrace all our international students, who come from a variety of countries and speak more than 100 languages.”
Dr. Marva Craig, Vice-President of Student Affairs, raffled off MetroCards to BMCC students who correctly answered questions about famous African Americans, such as: “What was the name of Queen Latifah’s first studio album?” (Some students also correctly knew that the singer-turned-actress had attended BMCC!)
Finally, the crowd was entertained by Ballet International Africans, a group of dancers who are “passionate about their culture, and intent on spreading this love through dance, music, song, and folklore while teaching others about Africa and African Americans.”
“We need your energy to help us,” said dancer Amina Heckstall, to the crowd of BMCC students who watched the dance performance in the lobby, clapping and cheering along. “This is our African Village in America, and we welcome you all to be a part of it.”
Heckstall explained the dances and drums represented stories that originated on the West Side of Africa, informing audience members they may be pulled into the dance space and invited to dance, per African tradition.
Paying homage to a gift
"One of BMCC's most amazing gifts is its diversity among the students, faculty and staff. African Heritage month, as with all heritage months celebrated on campus, is special because it encourages the college community to understand and appreciate the cultural differences that make America a culturally vibrant and colorful society,” said Dr. Marva Craig. “The African Heritage celebration is just one way we pay homage to that gift."
BMCC’s calendar lists all the events that celebrate Black History and African Heritage Month.