Published February 01, 2022 by Jane Godiner ’23

Black History Month at Bowdoin

Over the coming weeks, affinity group leaders, as well as faculty and staff, will organize and hold a variety of events, from artistic installations to athletic events and self-care excursions, to celebrate Black contributions and voices.

Black History Month poster
Black History Month poster

The recent kick-off event for a month of programming in celebration of Black History Month offered an opportunity for friends to come together in person again. Last year's kick-off was more limited due to COVID-19 protocols.

“The kickoff is just a great opportunity for community building,” said Eduardo Pazos, director of multicultural life and assistant dean of student affairs for inclusion and diversity. Students served themselves hot food, including onion rings and chicken wings. “We are starting this semester strongly by celebrating the Russwurm African American Center, Black History Month, and the contributions and the voices of Black Americans.”

The party—on February 2—was organized by the Bowdoin College Center for Multicultural Life in conjunction with Student Affairs and three student-run affinity groups: the Black Student Union (BSU), Africa Alliance, and the Student Organization for Caribbean Awareness.

Over the coming weeks, affinity group leaders, as well as faculty and staff, will organize and hold a variety of events, from artistic installations to athletic events and self-care excursions.

“The biggest goal for Black History Month is celebrating Blackness and Black pride,” said Shi Thompson ’24, member of SOCA and BSU. “We’re honoring students who came before us, students who may come after us, and students who are here.” 

One such celebratory event this month will be the Black Girl Brunch Hair Retreat, during which longer-standing student group Black Girl Brunch will invite Black students of all genders to spend a morning caring for their hair.

“We're looking to spread positivity around different hair types, to share how to care for different hair types and allow people to do their hair together,” said Kalan Lewis, assistant director of THRIVE and interim associate director of multicultural life. “People have different experiences and different backgrounds—someone could be on a hair journey where they just started being natural; maybe somebody else has been natural for a long time; maybe somebody is not natural and they can share how they’ve approached it.”

Qetsia Etienne ’22, president of BSU and a participant in Black Girl Brunch, echoed Lewis’s intention to make the hair retreat as inclusive as possible.

“Hair is such an important component to what makes us Black women—it's a part of our everyday lives, and what we want to do with the hair retreat is create a space where we can just be ourselves,” said Etienne. “For the first time, we will be incorporating men by having a barber because we want to stress that it is important for everyone to practice self-care.”

Another event in the works this month is open to all people of color in the Bowdoin community: the POC Mountain Takeover ski trip.

“I think I'm the most excited for the ski trip,” said Kaprice Brathwaite ’22, president of SOCA. “With everyone on the mountain together, it’s just so fun.”

At the end of the month, the entire Bowdoin community is invited to attend the annual Ebony Ball.

“There has definitely been a decline in social events because of COVID restrictions, so I'm excited for Ebony Ball,” said Jordyn Birmingham ’24, director of public relations for BSU. As a sophomore, she has yet to attend the ball. “According to older students and alumni, they say that Ebony Ball is an amazing time, so I’m very excited to be helping plan it,” she added. 

Etienne said she hopes all Bowdoin students, regardless of racial or ethnic background, consider attending the Ebony Ball and celebrating the culmination of Black History Month.

“There’s a misconception that [the Ebony Ball] is strictly for Black people, but what we really want it to be is a space in which everyone comes together to celebrate Black culture as a whole,” Etienne said. “I think that's something you can do regardless of color.”