By Julia Duggan
Senior Staff Writer
The College celebrated the start of Black History month on Feb. 5 with the annual Pan-African flag raising. Students were invited to attend this event virtually as safety measures are an aspect of all campus activities.
The speakers were located inside Trenton Hall and the screen rotated between inside Trenton Hall and just outside. This allowed viewers to clearly see the speakers and the flag being raised. Associate Director of Diversity and Inclusive Affairs Marvin Carter welcomed the viewers and introduced President Kathryn Foster.
“We are sickened and angered by racial injustice in our streets, courts and criminal justice system,” Foster said. “We are equally angered by structural racism in our institutions of society including healthcare, hospitals, housing and education.”
Foster continued by saying she hopes the efforts of the College to be more inclusive will create a lasting change.
“A year from now I want to stand before you to share our progress as a campus committed to all cultures, colors, characters and conditions,” she said.
The next speaker was James A. Felton III, Vice President for Inclusive Excellence. Felton focused on the teaching of Black history in elementary, middle and high school. He urged viewers to learn about more inspiring figures in Black history than those taught in class like Martin Luther King Jr., Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass.
“Search the library databases, talk to your professors, the elders and the many staff who were also alumni who can tell you about the giants whose shoulders we stand on,” Felton said. “Finally, be mindful that Black history is American history. I want to encourage all members of the campus community to explore and reflect on the past as well as the present.”
Felton then introduced Dylan Chidick, a current sophomore political science major at the College, who is the Programming Assistant for Brower Student Center. Chidick’s message was about how impressed he is by the College’s initiative to encourage inclusion and condemn racism. In addition, he discussed the meaning behind the celebration of Black History Month.
“It is a month filled with appreciation, culture and celebration for those who have come before us,” Chidick said. “We get to celebrate the accomplishments and achievements of Black leaders who have made an impact in every sector of the world.”
After Chidick, the viewers heard from alumna Sanitta Wicks ’21, the College’s NAACP representative. She called the fight for equality a pandemic due to how much the problem consumes everyday lives.
“We stand in the middle of a double pandemic: Covid and racism,” Wicks said. “It is important that we as a community learn from each other and allow our similarities to foster into the environment. The raising of the flag embodies the essence of unity.”
Tia Suggs, Vice President of the College’s NAACP chapter and a junior at the College, sang a song and then the flag was raised. Suggs sang acapella and Lynette Harris, Assistant Director of Career and Leadership Development, sang along with a piano and voice recording. Both songs encompassed the themes of unity, liberty and peace.
“Lift every voice and sing/till earth and heaven ring/ring with the harmonies of liberty,” sang Suggs.
The event closed with Reverend Jamal T. Johnson, Assistant Director for the Center for Student Success. His message was about honoring those from the past but still acknowledging there is work to be done.
“I hear the words ‘you’re a grand old flag, your high-flying flag in forever in peace may you reign,’” Johnson recited. “‘My country tis of thee, sweet land of Liberty of thee I sing.’ Yes, this all sounds good doesn’t it but today on February 5, 2021, standing here as a Black man in America, I would love to feel these words in my heart and in my soul.”
At this moment in history, however, such a notion is far from the experiences of Black Americans.
“Mr. Jamal Johnson gave a sermon on who spoke about TCNJ’s willingness to create an inclusive community for all the students,” Chidick said. “We also spoke about what the flag means. How flying the flag at TCNJ represents what it represents for all of us, not students but faculty and staff members and overall I thought it was really good.”