Growing up, Black History Month (BHM) was a retrospective look into the past. We honored the leaders of the Abolitionist and Civil Rights Movements. We memorized and recited sections of Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream speech and talked about our favorite quotes from leaders. (“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice,” is another King quote that is and always will remain my favorite as I find his words to be fundamentally true.) While all of those ways to mark the month were great, as soon as the clock chimed on March 1, we went back to our lives where celebrating Black history as a community was an afterthought.
In 2015, I moved to Dubai, where only a miniscule part of the population is Black, and an even tinier segment is Black people from America. BHM wasn’t on the calendar and wasn’t something that I thought about. Since returning to the US and attending Booth, my appreciation and love for BHM has been reinvigorated, as I’ve discovered a powerful shift in how and what we celebrate. While we still commemorate the figures of the past, I love that now there is a significant focus on celebrating Black culture of the moment, uplifting the figures who will become the future of Black history. While BHM is a month of remembrance, I feel that there is now an air of pride in the present moment as we pay tribute to all those leaders of the past who have gotten us to today.
As a second year reflecting on my time at Booth, I wanted to feature some of my favorite Black History Month moments from last year, my first year at Booth.
We kicked off the first weekend in February with Black Ski, an annual event hosted by MBAs from Dartmouth. Along with about 20 other Boothies, we joined other Black MBA students from around the country for a weekend of skiing/après skiing in New Hampshire. This was my first time seeing people ski in real life outside of the indoor ski slope at Dubai’s Mall of the Emirates. It was inspiring to be surrounded by Black MBAs and future black business leaders. While Black Ski was canceled for this year, I am glad for the opportunity the connections I made there that I will carry with me after business school.
- Hanging out in the hot tub while it snowed
- Dressing up as Black Panthers for a themed event one of the nights. You’ve probably seen the group pics on various Booth media. And for good reason–we looked pretty dope!
Given that most Boothies live in the Loop/South Loop, it can be difficult to socialize with other graduate students at UChicago as many of them live in or near Hyde Park. This Masquerade Ball was thrown by the Black Law Students Association and brought together black students from the medical school, law school, and business school. It was my first time spending time with students from other corners of the university and so thrilling to compare and contrast our experiences.
- All of the Black excellence at UChicago
- Wearing extravagant dresses
Kellogg Soul Brunch
Every once in a while, we find it in our hearts to play nice with our neighbors from up North. A handful of Boothies joined me to attend Kellogg’s Black Management Association Soul Brunch. It was a blast from the past as everyone dressed in 70s attire to relive Soul Train, one of the most iconic celebrations of black culture.
- Playing Soul Train games
- A truly out of sight costume contest
Sofar Sounds at Semicolon
This adventure was the perfect way to finish off the month. I’ve long been a lover of Sofar Sounds, an organization that puts on secret concerts and performances in intimate spaces–you don’t even know who you’re going to see perform until the day of the event! I was excited to finally live in a city with a thriving independent music community, so I got a group of nine other Boothies to join me on the packed floor of Semicolon, Chicago’s only Black-woman owned bookstore and gallery for a Sofar Sounds event where we experienced one of the most memorable live music performances I’ve ever been to.
- Watching Sam Trump create a symphony of sounds with his smooth voice, a trumpet, and a loop pedal
- Randomly being given Jameson hats on our way home
Black History Month inspires me to find more ways to celebrate Blackness all the time. At Booth, I’ve been able to use this month as a launching pad to find festivity, joy, camaraderie, and friendship. In addition to honoring where we came from, it’s important to celebrate who we are and where we are as a Black community today and everyday.