As Angel Riley scanned the audience at the Feb. 1 Black History Month kickoff event at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, she was grateful for not only the number of attendees, but at how many white faces were gathered there.
Riley, a freshman at the university who is Black, said it can be difficult at times to be among a relatively small number of students with her skin color on a mainly white campus. But Riley said she was heartened by turnout at the event that is meant to celebrate the accomplishments of Black people and recognize ongoing racial struggles.
“The people who showed up tonight, a lot of them aren’t Black people,” Riley said. “There were people who came here to learn about Black people, about Black culture, and I was learning from them, too. To see that happening, to be a part of it, it makes you feel good.”
The event was organized by UW-River Falls’s Black Student Union and the Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging Program. It included discussion of Black history, a participatory African dance demonstration, a quiz about Black history in America, the singing of the Black national anthem, and food.
Derek Bradley, Diversity, INclusion and Belonging director, said continued efforts like Wednesday’s event that invite Black and white people to connect are especially important given ongoing racial strife across the U.S., as highlighted by Tyre Nichols’ recent death at the hands of police in Memphis.
“We’re bringing people together for a larger purpose, to show that we’re all just people with common interests, and tonight is an example of how we can do that,” Bradley said.
Other events at UW-River Falls throughout this month will offer additional opportunities for people to learn about Black history and culture. Conversations at those gatherings have the potential to educate and lead to greater understanding, Bradley said.
Janiyah Brewington, a UW-River Falls senior who is Black, said she hopes Black History Month events can serve to connect people of different backgrounds who might not otherwise meet. Such meetings “have the power to create change,” she said.
Black History Month events
Diversity roundtable discussion, 5 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 21, Eau Galle River Room, University Center, East, 501 Wild Rose Ave.
Africa night, 5 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 23, Abbott Concert Hall, Kleinpell Fine Arts building, 420 E Cascade Ave.
Closing ceremony, sponsored by the Black Student Union, 5 p.m., Monday, Feb. 27, in the Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging lounge, second floor Rodli Hall, 512 South Sixth St.
To learn more about the Black History Month events and whether registration is requested, visit the FalconsConnect calendar. UW-River Falls Black History Month events are free and open to the public.
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