By Cara Ball
The Black Student Alliance, along with the Office of Cultural and Academic Transitions kicked-off its Black History Month Celebration with a program about “Legacy.”
“This program in conjunction with OCAT was to inform the black community about their history as well as legacy, as far as being leaders in our community and stepping up to the plate in multiple facets,” said Courtney Jackson, hospitality business senior and president of the Black Student Alliance.
The event, which took place on January 27, was aimed at motivating students to delve into their history, and learn about the legacy of their ancestors.
Motivational speaker and founder of the Advantage program, Eric Thomas spoke to students with an inspiring message instructing them on how to keep their legacy alive, especially while at a predominantly white university.
“I think we can get back to our history by simply, reading. There are different documentaries, and in Detroit we have a black arts museum you can visit,” Thomas said.
Thomas stressed the importance of knowing one’s history and encouraged students to study their history outside of the classroom.
“[This] generation is removed from our history. We’ve got to know about Frederick Douglas, we’ve got to know about Dubois, we’ve got to go back to our history,” Thomas said.
“We need to study where we come from so we don’t repeat the mistakes, but that we do repeat the successes of our past.”
Spanish senior Cyntoya McCall agreed with the message Thomas was sending to students.
“I think something important that he mentioned was [that] we need to study our history.” McCall said.
McCall also compared the adversities of past generations to issues which affect current generations.
“A lot of the time, we do give up too easily, [saying] ‘Oh I can’t do this,’ or ‘this class is too hard.’ But, If you look at what our ancestors did, you can get through anything,” McCall said.
Thomas, who attended a Historically Black College also spoke about the differences between an Historically Black College and University (HBCU) and a predominantly white university, and what students here at MSU must do in order to excel.
“I think we need to create a community here. I think we feel out of place because it is predominantly white,” Thomas said.
“We don’t see ourselves in faculty we don’t see ourselves in administration, but we can take what we have and use it to our advantage.”
A legacy within Michigan State
Coordinator in the Office of Cultural and Academic Transitions and advisor to the Black Student Alliance, Mary Phillips expressed the importance of why students should attend events like “Legacy” because it relates to MSU’s involvement in black history.
“BSA started off of rich history. There was a time when there wasn’t that organization here [on campus].” Phillips said.
Phillips said when BSA was founded in 1969, there was segregation and blatant racism on MSU’s campus. The purpose of the organization was to unify and promote black awareness, when racial barriers once divided the campus.
“Major speakers [came] here … from Malcolm X, to Martin Luther King, to Stokely Carmichael, and Ernest Green. We can go on and on about the political figures who have spoken at this university that the students don’t know about,” Phillips said.
And with the recurring message that students must take the initiative to learn about their own history, Phillips emphasized the importance of students enrolling in the African American History courses offered at MSU.
“There are professors here who are very much African American scholars who will break down the history for you,” Phillips said.
Whether through a class setting or programs put on by various campus organizations, the same idea is stressed: students should retain their history in order to keep the legacy alive within their community.
“This program was an opportunity for students to learn more about black history and to really understand the importance of history and how history has everything to do with the present,” Phillips said.