Dear Eastern Community,
Each February, we reflect and celebrate the rich history and culture of our brothers and sisters of the African Diaspora. The national theme for Black History Month 2024 is “African Americans and the Arts.” The theme draws our attention to the centrality of beauty and creativity, and explores the key influence African Americans have had in the fields of "visual and performing arts, literature, fashion, folklore, language, film, music, architecture, culinary and other forms of cultural expression."
As image-bearers of God, we possess the fundamental need to love and to be loved. Imagination and creativity are not only reflections of our humanity, but also can be vehicles for survival and resilience. African Americans and the arts have a long history of story-telling rooted in the need for survival, as well as the search for identity and belonging.
The 2024 theme also draws our attention to the ways in which African Americans have responded to oppression by using art to express and preserve their history while showcasing resilience and empowerment.
Outstanding athlete, activist, actor, and singer, the late Paul Robeson noted that: “Artists are the gatekeepers of truth. We are civilization’s radical voice.” Robeson, like many others past and present, used the power of art to further the cause of civil rights and racial justice. This is to be celebrated as we engage with Black History Month 2024.
At Eastern, we are blessed to have nationally and internationally recognized African American music faculty members. I invite you to read about Dr. Steven Ford, Dr. Karla Scott, Anthony Walker, Perry Brisbon, Marcus Myers, and Nimrod Speaks.
The Apostle Paul reminds us that: “In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you.”
This year, I encourage each of you to use this time to understand, reflect, enjoy, and celebrate African American art, expressing gratitude for the various gifts, abilities, and talents God has bestowed upon us. I remind you of the importance of art in our lives together in this community, as well as its powerful potential to inspire hope.
Let us embrace, reclaim, and share our stories with the world so that we help to make this community and the world a more hopeful and inclusive place for all of humanity.
"There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you." Maya Angelou, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings.
Randolph Walters, Psy.D, LPC, CCTP, CSAM
Special Assistant to the President for Diversity, Equity, and Belonging
Professor, Counseling Psychology Department