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Black History Month 2021

The following message was sent to students, faculty, and staff on February 24, 2021:

Students and colleagues,

We are in the final days of Black History Month 2021: a time to celebrate the achievements of Black thinkers and makers. At this time, I invite you to join me in acknowledging our Black students, faculty, staff, and alumni—their accomplishments and stories—and to consider the ways in which they have contributed to the richness of our community.

This annual celebration was instituted by historian Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (now Association for the Study of African American Life and History). What began in 1925 as a weeklong effort to confront prejudice with truth and joy, first called Negro History Week, has since become a regular reminder to highlight Black history within the national narrative. 

Black history is our history. It’s American history. And it’s unfolding every day, throughout the month of February and beyond.

In June of last year, after the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis Police Department officers, we renewed our commitment to challenging white supremacy and anti-Blackness at  the University of Minnesota Morris. To that end, we have taken the following steps:

  • Organized the African-centered program series Resiliency, Empowerment, Self-care, and Transformation (REST) for our Black students, with facilitators life coach Reggie Hanson and Yoga for Black Lives founder Dr. Stephanie Hicks
  • Convened a campuswide book dialogue on So You Want to Talk About Race? by Ijeoma Oluo (who will do an author’s talk on Thursday, April 15, 7 p.m.)
  • Undertook training on how to create supportive work environments for our Black colleagues
  • Launched a yearlong series of anti-racism dialogues, with follow up programming planned for communication across difference, designed for IC courses
  • Established and awarded the first UMM Racial and Social Justice Scholarship

And while we cannot claim credit for her success, we also saw Maya Bledsoe ’20 become the first UMN Morris student to complete an area of concentration in African and Black American studies. 

There, of course, is more work to do on our campus. I ask you to join me once again to commit to making that work an institutional priority. 

We could never acknowledge the depth and breadth of Black history and culture in just 28 days. So, today and every day hereafter, I’d like to affirm our Black students, alumni, and colleagues: thank you for your contributions to our campus. And I’d like to thank everyone for your ongoing efforts to create a truly inclusive model for living and learning at UMN Morris.

Michelle