Guest blog post by Thanelie Bien-Aime, a senior biology major and president of the Black Student Union (BSU)
I didn’t grow up celebrating Kwanzaa and my first real experience with it was through BSU. Coming into college, I experienced a new sense of Black pride. Through Africana classes and organizations like the Black Student Union, I embraced the connectedness of Pan-Africanism and learned more about black culture, social justice, activism, and community service. Each year, the BSU would host a program to teach and celebrate Kwanzaa, and there would always be community members who had personal stories of the Holiday to share. For example Ghana Hylton, who works within Student Services at SHU, has assisted BSU for the past 2 years to facilitate engaging and informative content. Our main goal is not only to teach the history of the holiday but for people, especially those of African descent, to understand why it is relevant to them.
Kwanzaa’s 7 principles are Umoja (Unity), Kujichagulia (Self-Determination), Ujima (Collective Work), Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics), Nia (Purpose), Kuumba (Creativity), and Imani (Faith). All of these principles are significant to my various roles; health advocate, performing artist, student leader, community member, and the list goes on. Kwanzaa empowers my identity and emphasizes my connection to the world. You might not celebrate Kwanzaa with all of the traditional customs or symbols but celebrating can be as simple as allowing the principles to positively change you, your relationships, and your work. Like many holidays, it’s a time that emphasizes reflection, giving, family, community, and culture.
I would suggest taking a look at BSU’s Instagram page @setonhallbsu. We have uploaded Ghana’s Kwanzaa 101 video and our saved IG Live program from earlier this month. We’ll also continue sharing some more Kwanzaa content.
Kwanzaa will begin on Saturday, December 26, 2020 and end on Friday, January 1, 2021.
I learned about Monsignor Fahy in the spring semester of 2018. It was at an intergenerational panel discussion at the Walsh Library of former Seton Hall student-activist leaders. The event was organized by the Concerned 44, an activated student group. The panel discussion was a teach-in about the history of protest on Seton Hall’s campus and discussion about the progress of the then student movement. You can follow the Concerned 44 on Instagram. If it weren’t for this panel discussion I would not have learned about President Fahy and I’d still be pronouncing Fahy Hall wrong. As an alumna, I can’t help but be angry that it took this long. I became more interested and invited colleagues into the journey of getting to know Fahy.
Alan Delozier, University Archivist, did the work to uncover the Fahy Inaugural address which is as relevant today as it was 50 years ago. The CORE has integrated the speech as a required reading for the Journey of Transformations course. And this article intends to showcase a digital
communal reading of the text as an activist performance practice. The point of the project is to position the text and its ethos as a cultural imprint on our collective memory. To me, Fahy is a white anti-racist abolitionist ancestor who risked and used his power to benefit others. Social justice is a term we’re hearing a lot. What is it? How do you define it? What does it look like? Everyone will have a different answer. I define it as: righting a wrong. If it doesn’t right a wrong, it is not justice. Not only did Fahy leverage his power to right a wrong with some of the most impactful undertakings of Seton Hall’s history but he acknowledged the problem. Often, we rush to solutions without first doing the self interrogation to name the problem. He used this moment, his inaugural address, when everyone was listening and we’re still listening 50 years later.
The video, this collective recitation, brings many voices together for one message. Faculty and students, separate, but together. It carves a lineage. There are protests now as there were 50 years ago. In the streets and on our campus.
Greg Iannarella offers insight into what moved him to gravitate toward one of the most unwavering parts of Fahy’s speech, “This section always felt really powerful to me. The description, the intentional language, invoking real scenes and real communities, conjuring the people! It’s a moment where he turns the gaze outward and challenges the audience to see what is relevant.”
Participants were encouraged to think about their location as a backdrop. These choices offer additional meaning and subtext. Virtual performance lets us become our own set designers. Brooke Duffy presented her portion outside of a new school. “It is a public elementary school in Teaneck that was recently renamed for Theodora Smiley Lacey, a civil rights activist, ‘living legend.’ The NorthJersey.com website describes, ‘it was because of her efforts that Teaneck became the first city in the United States to voluntarily integrate its public schools.’”
This isn’t the last we’ll hear of Fahy’s address. Jon Radwan describes a new participatory oral history project designed to ensure access, inclusion, and equity in its research process to document and preserve the entirety of this part of the University’s history. “We are confident that the Inaugural Address is only the beginning of learning about Msgr. Fahy’s social justice leadership. Our recent proposal to the New Jersey Council for the Humanities seeks funding for a large scale oral history project. We plan to contact alumni, faculty, and administrators who worked closely with Fahy to record their stories about SHU’s collaboration with Newark activists to launch the Black Studies Center.” To support this project please contact Angela Kariotis and Jon Radwan.
Centering historical figures creates their own mythology. Retrospectives are not without their limitations. But there are so few white allies to look up to for this work. Allies must dig deep, activating themselves, stepping into their consciousness. We can extend the Fahy legacy and course correct. Like 50 years ago, it is a transformative yet fragile time. We must have the will to meet it.
Happy Caribbean American Heritage Month! To learn more about Caribbean culture, life, and history, we partnered with SHU’s West Indian Student Organization (WISO) and compiled a list of reading recommendations. Below is a list recommended by Ijah Penn, the treasurer of SHU WISO. To see more reading recommendations, you can go on Instagram and follow #caribbeanreads, and you can get involved in SHU WISO or learn more about their organization by following their Instagram: shu_wiso
1.Land of Love and Drowning (2014)- The author Tiphanie Yanique represents St. Thomas and the U.S Virgin Islands. The story is a book of twisted and dark family secrets that plague the Bradshaw women over 60 years in the early 90’s in the U.S Virgin Islands. The novel is available as a print book in the library.
2. Elizabeth Nunez is a Trinidadian author who writes about internal cultural and societal struggles and the complex identities of her characters reflect the turmoil of these challenges. Two of Nunez’s works listed below can be found in the SHU library catalog as ebooks: Even in Paradise (2016), and Not Everyday Use (2014).
3. The Dragon Can’t Dance (1986) by Earl Lovelace is a novel that discusses the difficulty of postcolonial Trinidad. The story is told through one man’s preparations of an elaborate dragon costume for Carnival as he attempts to shed the struggles of his life after Emancipation. This book can be found in print in the library.
5. A Brief History of the Seven Killing (2014) is written by Marlon James, who represents Jamaica. The novel is a suspense-filled fictional story about Jamaica’s history and the political climate of the 1960’s through the 80’s. This book can be found in print in the library.
6. Esmeralda Santiago is a prominent Puerto Rican author in the United States. She writes memoirs that encapsulate her own assimilation into this American culture and way of life, which allow others with similar experiences to relate and feel represented. Her writing showcases themes of self-discovery, immigration, working-class immigrant experience and biculturalism.
Below are just a few samples of her writing and contributions:
Esmeralda Santiago. “El Hombre Que Yo Amo.” Ploughshares, vol. 26, no. 2/3, 2000, p. 146. EBSCOhost. Link to Read Full Text.
May 31-June 5, was the first ever #BlackBirdersWeek, a social media education campaign devised by Anna Gifty Opoku-Agyeman, and co-founded by Gifty Opoku-Agyeman, Sheridan Alford, Danielle Belleny, Chelsea Connor, and Tykee James.
Announced on May 29th, the goal of the campaign was to bring awareness to the Black hobbyists, naturalists, scientists, who enjoy birding. It also sought to highlight the challenges and dangers that Black people face when participating in outdoor activities. The event was inspired by Christian Cooper, science writer, comics writer, and a Black bird watcher, who was involved in a racially charged incident in Central Park on May 25, 2020. Read more.
Some hashtags you can still look up to find great accounts, images, facts, and resources