BYU celebrates Black History Month through lectures and discussions

BYU student Aïsha Lehmann sought to convey themes of division and also similarities of races in this drawing. BYU is celebrating Black History Month through lectures and discussions. (Aïsha Lehmann)

BYU is celebrating Black History Month through lectures and discussions that provide educational opportunities and share diverse perspectives.

Events so far included a Kennedy Center panel discussion on Ibram X. Kendi’s book “How to Be an Antiracist” and Global Women’s Studies colloquium with sociology professor Jacob Rugh. “The Race: Myths and Realities” lecture series also kicked off on Feb. 10.

University of Maryland professor and author Richard Bell will present at the Darius Gray Black History Month lecture on Feb. 16. Two more Kennedy Center “Race: Myths and Realities” lectures will be on Feb. 17 and 24, with a Diversity and Inclusion lecture on Feb. 19. A full list of events is on the Kennedy Center website.

The history department helped set up the Darius Gray lecture with guest professor Richard Bell. Bell’s lecture will be a tie between his book “Stolen” and the film “Harriet.”

“That was a natural match because of the attention the film drew to the Underground Railroad, and because Bell’s book highlights what we call a ‘reverse Underground Railroad’ of free African Americans kidnapped into slavery,” history professor Matt Mason said.

Mason said he expects the conversation on these two works will help explain just how complex and bitter the struggle between slavery and freedom was even before the Civil War.

“I hope those who are able to participate will find this an intellectually engaging opportunity to interact with a leading scholar on American slavery,” Mason said. The lecture will be held on Zoom.

The “Race: Myths and Realities” series was created by the Kennedy Center and its initiative to sponsor weekly lectures about issues and events that are an important part of international affairs and ideas. The center chose to focus on race this semester because of its importance in the U.S. and worldwide, professor Stan Benfell said.

“We hope to inform and engage students in some of the major issues of our time,” he said. He hopes students gain a greater understanding and appreciation of Black Americans’ contributions to U.S. history and the vital role Black people and people of color have in the history of cultures throughout the world.

Benfell also said he hopes this lecture series can positively demonstrate President Russell M. Nelson’s words from October 2020 General Conference. 

“I grieve that our Black brothers and sisters the world over are enduring the pains of racism and prejudice.  I call upon our members everywhere to lead out in abandoning attitudes and actions of prejudice,” President Nelson said. 

The “Race: Myths and Realities” lectures will be held on Feb. 17 and 24 at noon. Students can register here.

The Diversity and Inclusion lecture on Feb. 19 features BYU psychology professor Niwako Yamawaki, who will speak on her experience as an immigrant. 

“Diversity is important because it brings new perspectives, ideas and experiences,” Yamawaki said, adding that she believes the world has become global. People may not successfully survive in this fast-changing world if they don’t adapt to diversity.

Yamawaki said she would like for people to use psychology to better understand the experiences of immigrants who have come to the U.S. so they can be empathetic towards them.

The Diversity and Inclusion lecture will be held Feb. 19 at 11 a.m. Students can register here.

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