The conception of Black Solidarity Day in Brooklyn took place in 1969, and was founded by Dr. Carlos Russell. This event is said to be student driven, and came about as a result of student uprising on campuses; they wanted to know about African history. This is an annual celebration which takes place the first Monday of November, which is the day before Election Day. Anyone who is committed to social justice is welcome to be part of this celebration, and you don’t have to be black. The event is hosted by the African American Studies Department at the New York City College of Technology, and an appeal goes out to students to go to the department and inquire about how they can get involve, because the survival of the department is dependent upon the students.
This year’s theme for Black Solidarity day was “Understanding Trayvon Martin in the Age of the Obamas, and the awesomely designed poster was done by student Matthew Joseph. It was said by the Mistress of ceremony Dr Dionne Bennett that this is a time when students need to think of how to take advantage of opportunities given; reflect on the opportunities given at the college and think whether it is being taken full advantage of; students need to be trained to communicate effectively, and acknowledgement need to be made of those who sacrificed to bring about black solidarity day.
Professor Diane Wilson was given the honor of informing the audience what Black Solidarity day means. She said that it’s a day set aside to think about social issues in the black community. Reflect on the civil rights movement, riots, people who fought for the rights and freedom of blacks, like Medger Evers, Martin Luther King and Malcom X. Citizens ought to be recognized for who they are, and acknowledge that ordinary people lives are worth something to us. She also informed the audience that there is a play called “A Day of Absence” which is based on the foundation of Black Solidarity day, focusing on what would happen to the city if the everyday/ordinary people were to disappear.
Several Professors from the African American Studies Department gave a short address. There were theatrical performances on the topic “Belonging”, done by Black Theatre students from different ethnic background and nationality on, and John Lennon’s song “Imagine” was song by another student Titilopee Olushoga. However, the highlight of this event was the keynote speaker Farei Chideya. She is Harvard University graduate who lives in Crown Height, Brooklyn. She is a journalist, entrepreneur, author of several books such as Color of our Future, and a novel entitled Kiss the sky, among others.
In relation to the theme of the event Chideya’s topic was “Black Inequality: A Post-Post-Racial Perspespective”. She explained that post-racial means a period after racism, pretending that everything is fine, the time of racism is over. She believes that contrary to what society thinks, we don’t live in a post-racial environment, there is profound racism displayed on a regular basis. An example was given of a rodeo clown taking playing the part of Barrack Obama trying to humiliate the image of the President; that is racism being played off in comedy. We were informed about the vast difference in unemployment rate between blacks and whites. Mention was made of the “Stand your ground” law on which George Zimmerman based his action when he murdered Trayvon Martin; she informed us that members of congress get others to write their legislation and pay them for it. Several circumstances were briefly discussed like the decline of income and wealth for African-Americans and Latinos, and the race and class issues.
Despite the issues of racism Chideya didn’t hesitate to highlight some positive things about the black community. She spoke about Chinedu Echeruo, the young African American man who sold his business, “HopStop.com” to Apple for a billion dollars, and also the Black Girls Code, which is program geared towards providing young girls of color with technology and computer skills while they are preparing for their future careers. This program was founded by Kimberly Bryant who is also a woman of color.
There was a question and answer segment, where one of the questions asked was, how is activism different today in comparison to the past? Her response was that today there is a huge amount of visual activism, and you can also take it to social media. She also stated that circles of influence is critical, so wisely choose a circle of friends you can trust and exchange ideas. She also introduced a term “time sue-sue” when members can dedicate a few hours of their time to help other group members with their project.
Chideya informed her audience that during the Civil Rights Movement only 15% of the people participated because many were afraid to participate for different reasons. She also said that student activism has changed, and pleaded with the students not to underestimate their power as. In closing she told her audience that true friendship is golden; surround yourself with people who are on the quest for the same things you want, and use that circle of friendship and be empowered to create change.
This event was very enlightening and empowering. The information given highlighted the issues of racism that is very evident in our society today. Even though this is the case, the members of faculty and the community is encouraging the students of color and others who are interested in social justice to come together and work for the betterment of the people. Also to take advantage of every opportunity offered to help advance oneself in this competitive and prejudice world. They definitely showed that the want the best for their students.
I can relate to many of the things discussed at this event. I have shared in the experience of anguish and anger of my brother being innocently arrested and ill-treated by police officers because of racial profiling. I see it around me all the time where the color of one’s skin determines many decisions which affect the black community negatively. This is why African-Americans and people of color need to work harder to make themselves more marketable, and this is what is being encouraged by the African American Studies Department. An event like this allows us to celebrate the people who have worked hard to bring us some freedom, to encourage us as students to do our part to pave the way for others, and to share what we received to help others move ahead. It also gives a sense of belonging, knowing that other people like you who are intelligent, talented and strong are in this struggle also, and is willing to do something about it. It is important the students and faculty continue to work together to continue and enhance Black Solidarity Day at New York City College of Technology.