By Amethyst Martinez
The Black Student Union (BSU) began celebrations for Black History Month on Feb. 1 by raising a Black Lives Matter flag at the heart of campus in front of the Bart Luedeke Center (BLC).
The annual flag-raising event started last year as a way for BSU and Rider to show solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.
Sophomore global studies major and Social Media and Engagement Chair of BSU Kayla McIntyre said in a speech before the flag-raising, “This flag allows us to continue the fight with the BLM movement, since it is far from over. This flag is raising awareness to the countless lives we lost due to police brutality and for African Americans to know that our white counterparts face justice when our blood is shed, and not just the other way around.”
Faculty, including Rider President Gregory Dell’Omo, students and guests gathered around the BLC entrance where the observance began.
The ceremony included speeches from McIntyre, senior finance major and BSU President Maranisha Rivers and senior health care management major and BSU Vice President Tiana Harrington. It also featured Sayndia Sando, a junior psychology major who sang, ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing’, a song written by J. Rosamond Johnson and James Weldon Johnson. In 1919, the song was named by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) as the Black National Anthem.
Rivers recited the poem “For My People” by Margaret Walker, a poem about Black empowerment, while McIntyre gave quotes on behalf of Black students who attend Rider, and what they love about being Black.
After the ceremony concluded, a black flag embroidered with the white words ‘Black Lives Matter’ was lifted, the sun shining behind it photogenically.
When asked the importance of Black History Month, Rivers said, “It’s to celebrate and to also acknowledge everything that my ancestors had to go through back in the past and also now what we currently go through now and in the future, but to [also] show that we are more than just another statistic or more than just what people or society places us out to be… We just want to show that we can love, we can create, we can inspire people. We could definitely show people that we are more than what society paints us out to be, what textbooks paint us out to be.”
“This is important for us, specifically on this campus, because it is a predominantly white campus, that we have a community here that Black students know that they feel safe and supported,” said McIntyre.
The BSU and Rider are hosting an array of events for Black History Month that students can partake in, the next event being a Black excellence exposition on Feb. 10 at 6 p.m. in the BLC NJM Community Room. This event will showcase Black businesses, including student CEOs.
Harrington said, “I think we should be celebrated all year. It is important to highlight all [of] our history [and] our accomplishments because we honestly have done so much.”