Black History Month focuses on issues of justice

By David Gulliver

New College’s annual Black History Month, with the theme of “Interrogating the Meaning of Liberation, Justice, and Belonging,” is bringing more than a dozen events to campus, including a concert, films, workshops on drumming and dance, lectures, and a day-long symposium.

Gloria Browne-Marshall is speaking at New College as part of Black History Month.
Dr. Gloria Browne-Marshall is speaking at New College as part of Black History Month.

The events, planned by a committee of students, faculty, and staff, can be found on New College’s Black History Month webpage. 

Dr. Queen Mecca Zabriskie, assistant professor of sociology, said this year’s theme emerged from the committee’s conversations, particularly the symposium, titled “Systemic Injustice and the Meaning of Citizenship in America’s Democracy” and a talk by Dr. Gloria Browne-Marshall, professor of constitutional law at City University of New York’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice. 

“We often discussed how many of our systems and institutions continue to marginalize people of color, black people specifically, limiting opportunities as well as impacting outcomes and experiences,” Zabriskie said. “We also talked about the efforts of Black individuals and collectives to challenge the marginalization they experience and work for social change.”

That led them, Zabriskie said, to a focus on a number of questions: 

  • What does it mean to be free given the systemic inequalities black folks and communities face? What would true justice look like? 
  • What does it mean to actually feel like you belong to a community or country?
  • Why has it been so difficult for black folks in the United States to achieve these three things (liberation, justice, and belonging)? 
  • How have black folks worked for liberation, justice, and belonging when the larger society or community has tried to deny us these three things? 

“This theme is important,” she said, “because our country is so divided, and we are dealing with a number of crises that raise concerns about belonging, how we value the lives and contributions of different communities and humans in general, as well as how we relate to and interact with each other.”

Black History Month has always focused on the diversity across what is often simply called the “black community,” and so the programming includes speakers from different parts of the African Diaspora, Zabriskie said. 

“That means we can also see the similarities and differences in how these issues impact black folks and people of African descent in other parts of the world, such as Germany and Italy this year,” she said. “This illustrates how race and racism have both local and transnational dimensions and implications.”

— David Gulliver is interim associate director of the New College Office of Communications and Marketing.

Founded in Sarasota in 1960, New College of Florida is the state's only legislatively designated Honors College of Florida. New College prepares intellectually curious students for lives of great achievement by providing a highly individualized education that integrates academic rigor with career-building experiences. New College offers 45 undergraduate majors in liberal arts and sciences, a master’s degree program in data science, and certificates in technology, finance, and business skills.

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