In February, the UA Africana Studies Program is presenting "The Human Rights: Borders & Barriers Symposium," one of numerous events as part of Black History Month.
In February, the UA Africana Studies Program is presenting "The Human Rights: Borders & Barriers Symposium," one of numerous events as part of Black History Month.

Black History Month at UA to Honor Spoken Word and Action

Numerous units on campus have organized events, ranging from poetry readings to a symposium.
Jan. 27, 2016
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For more information on event dates, times and locations for events hosted by African American Student Affairs or other departments and groups, visit

Black History Month events at the University of Arizona in February include poetry readings, a block party and a major symposium exploring themes related to promoting diversity and intercultural competence in the wake of the Paris attacks and international refugee crisis.

The African American Students Association in partnership with numberous collaborators will open the month with "Finding Community Welcome," with a keynote address by U.S. Department of Arts and Culture Cultural Agent Jess Solomon, addressing ways to enact positive change for a more equitable future.

The free, open-to-all Feb. 1 kickoff event, to be held 4-5 p.m. in the Tucson Room of the Student Union Memorial Center, was organized "in light of the history of activism, advocacy and social justice that is the foundation of the work of many of the great black historical leaders," said Isoken P. Adodo, coordinator for African American Student Affairs.

"Jess Solomon is a creative facilitator and initiator of social change projects, and is recognized nationally for her leadership in the use of art, culture and design in community cultural development," Adodo said. "All are invited to attend to learn about using different mediums in the movement for change, diversity and inclusion."

Also in February, the UA Poetry Center is hosting four acclaimed poets: 2014 MacArthur Genius award winner Terrance Hayes; 2014 Leslie Scalapino Award winner Khadijah Queen; American Book Award recipient Kimiko Hahn; and Adrian Matejka, a finalist for both the National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize.

The four poets will present on Thursdays at 7 p.m. — beginning with Hayes' talk on Feb. 4 — during the center's new series "Spectacular Poetics: The Poetry of Spectacle," which mirrors the center's historic drive to host statewide and nationally known poets, including Pulitzer Prize recipients and National Book Award winners.

"The range in these four writers is huge in terms of what their writing ends up sounding like," said Hannah Ensor, the Poetry Center's program coordinator.

The Spectacular Poetics series is free and open to all, presented with support from the UA Confluencenter for Creative Inquiry and the Africana Studies Program. The series is part of a broader new initiative at the Poetry Center to annually offer a thematic series of investigative readings that respond to critical social, cultural, environmental or political concerns. 

"We'll ask poets — really, really good poets — to come to Tucson to share their work and think aloud about a set of big topics that will hopefully alter our course of thinking, possibly even our course of living," Ensor said.

"If there's any difference at all between poets and the rest of us, it's that poets have chosen as their job and as their way of life to demand of themselves that they see clearly, think critically and creatively, synthesize the world wildly, and deeply feel the world in which we live," she said. "Above all else, we have faith in and excitement around what they’ll be bringing together for us to think about, respond to and hear."

Then, on Feb. 6, "Selma" will be screened at 7 p.m. at the Loft Cinema, 3233 E. Speedway Blvd., with a talk by Pulitzer Prize-winning author and journalist Diane McWhorter. The event is supported by the UA College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, the School of Journalism, The New York Times and other sponsors.

Throughout the month, Arizona Public Media will feature an extensive lineup of special programming, to include the Feb. 8 showing of "Independent Lens: A Ballerina’s Tale," which tells the story of Misty Copeland. Copeland made history as the first African-American female principal dancer with the prestigious American Ballet Theater.

Other segments during Black History Month will explore B.B. King's challenging life and career through candid interviews; explorations into the lives and work of Alice Walker, Zora Neale Hurston and Thurgood Marshall; a retrospective piece on the turbulent 1960s, when a new revolutionary culture emerged with the Black Panther Party; and a piece on AIDS, one of the leading causes of death for black women in the rural South. Full details on the Arizona Public media segments are available online.

Then, on Feb. 20, African American Student Affairs will host a health fair in conjunction with the local Juneteenth​ committee. The 1-3 p.m. health fair will be held at the Boys and Girls Club, 2585 E. 36th St.

And on Feb. 21, African American Student Affairs will host its "Black Consciousness" Spoken Word Competition in collaboration with Tucson Unified School District. College students will compete to win the title of "AASA Spoken Word Artist of the Year," while TUSD middle and high school students will compete to win the "Oratorical Speech of the Year." Both groups will speak on the theme of blackness in the 21st century. The 2:30 p.m. event is free and open to the public, and will be held in Room 350 of the Modern Languages Building.

And following Grandmaster Flash's 1980s-era lyrical message, "Don't push me 'cause I'm close to the edge," the UA Africana Studies Program is presenting "The Human Rights: Borders & Barriers Symposium" Feb. 22-24

The symposium will feature speakers discussing topics such as human rights; migration flows in the U.S., Europe and Africa; terrorism; war conflicts; and freedom of expression.

Events will be held each night at 6 in the Dorothy Rubel Room of the UA Poetry Center, 1508 E. Helen St., and are free and open to the public.

"My colleagues and I are very excited to co-sponsor this timely symposium featuring several renowned scholars as well as eminent members of the Tucson's community," said Alain-Philippe Durand, the Africana Studies Program director.

"More than ever, looking at recent events, one can see the critical importance of the studying and understanding of the human's soul, spirit, emotions and the promoting of diversity and intercultural competence on the widest global scale,” said Durand, also head of the School for International Languages, Literatures and Cultures.

Presentations will focus on contemporary national and transnational issues such as Ferguson, Charleston, Baltimore, Charlie Hebdo, the Paris attacks and the global refugee crisis.

In addition to Durand, opening remarks on Feb. 22 will be provided by Mary Wildner-Bassett, dean of the College of Humanities, and UA Provost Andrew Comrie.

Events include:

  • Feb. 22: Keisha-Khan Perry, an associate professor of Africana Studies at Brown University, will present "The Gendered Racial Frame of Land and Housing Rights as Human Rights Issues."
  • Feb. 23: Lionel Cuillé, assistant professor of French at Webster University and the founder and director of the Centre Francophone, will present "The Frontier of the French Republic: The Charlie Hebdo and Bataclan Affairs."
  • Feb. 24: David Stovall, professor of Educational Policy Studies and African American Studies at the University of Illinois, Chicago, will present "Engineered Conflict: School Closings, Public Housing, Law Enforcement and the Future of Black Life."

The three-day symposium is also sponsored by the UA Department of French and Italian and the College of Humanities.

Adodo noted that Black History Month, recognized by every U.S. president since 1976, and having grown out of "Negro History Week" celebrations during the 1920s, is an important, though not exclusive, time to celebrate black culture and history.

Adodo said: "Black History Month is designated to acknowledge the people and events that have greatly impacted not just African-Americans, but people of all cultural and linguistic backgrounds in this country which, as such, should be taught, discussed and celebrated every day."