Black Awareness Month Gets Underway at UM

Opening ceremonies featured spoken word performances that empowered African-American youth.

By Mike Piacentino
UM News

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (February 05, 2014) — February is Black History Month, and the students of UM’s United Back Students (UBS) have their own way of embracing their culture and history.

The opening ceremonies for Black Awareness Month took place Tuesday night in the College of Arts and Sciences Wesley Gallery, located on UM’s Coral Gables campus. UBS, together with the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs, hosts BAM annually to celebrate black history and to open their culture to the UM community through various on-campus events.

This year’s event theme is “Ubuntu: I Am Who I Am Because of Who We Are.” Ubuntu is an Nguni Bantu word for “human-ness,” and its philosophy relies upon human relationships and the interdependency of all humans on earth.

“Ubuntu is actually a continuation of last year’s theme: Sankofa,” said Autumn Robertson, a UM sophomore and co-coordinator for BAM’s opening ceremonies. “Sankofa is the idea that we need to lift each other as we climb. And Ubuntu reminds us that – as a black community – we need to stick together.”

In addition to organizing campus programming held throughout the month, BAM serves as a philanthropic endeavor for UBS. This year the student organization chose to work with the Asante Africa Foundation, which is dedicated to spreading education to the children of east Africa by providing scholarships and leadership development workshops.

Tuesday’s event served as an opportunity for UM students and special guests to deliver spoken word poetry performances to the audience of more than 100 UM students. A common theme in many of the performances was the empowerment of African-American youth to embrace their culture and feel empowered because of it.

“A lot of young people of all cultures are losing their history,” said headline presenter Calvin Madeson. “Everyone needs to know their history so they will know their future.”

Madeson blended comedy and spoken word poetry to share his story of growing up in Miami. “No problem is solved through silence,” he told the audience as he recounted the many difficult and frightening situations he often faced on the streets. He closed his performance by reminding students that, “The difference between living and existence is a matter of choice . . . and the choice is yours.”

The evening concluded with a moving rendition of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” by the University of Miami Hammond-Butler Inspirational Concert Choir. In the spirit of Ubuntu, the entire audience stood and held hands during the a cappella performance.

“Tonight reminded me that we have strength in each other,” UM freshman Ivan Anderson said. “We need to hold on to our culture.”


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UM students give a spoken word performance at Black Awareness Month opening ceremonies held February 4 at the CAS Gallery.

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