Southeast Missouri State University student publication

Southeast leaps into 2020 with Black History Month celebration event

Monday, March 2, 2020
Members of the Southeast community had the chance to talk to representatives from a variety of organizations and learn about their history and look at multiple historical exhibits.
Photo by Emma Goodrick

Members of the community gathered together to celebrate Black History Month in the University Center Program Lounge on Feb. 28.

Leap into 2020: A Celebration of African American History in Missouri sought to highlight the experiences of African Americans at Southeast.

The diversity committee of the Department of History and Anthropology were the organizers for the event. The committee’s main task is to promote diversity within the Department of History and Anthropology and make students from different backgrounds feel more comfortable.

“It’s focusing on the history of not only African American students but also faculty and staff and the history of the involvement of African Americans with the University,” Joshua Sander, a graduate student involved with the committee, said.

Associate professor Vicky McAlister served as a facilitator for the event. She compiled the exhibits by partnering with Kent Library’s Special Collections & Archives and the Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity.

The event featured a variety of tables from organizations such as the Black Student Union, Historic Preservation Association, the Department of History and Anthropology and Kent Library’s Special Collections and Archives.

The Department of History and Anthropology table had information on the classes offered within the department, with specific facts on the African American history classes.

The Historic Preservation Association showcased some notable landmarks in the Cape Girardeau area, such as Ivers Square in downtown Cape Girardeau.

“I think the story of Ivers Square is very important in the story of black history in the area,” said Steven Hoffman, historic preservation program coordinator.

Hoffman explained that Ivers Square was renamed in 2017 to honor two former slaves from Cape Girardeau, James and Harriet Ivers. James Ivers enlisted in the Union Army during the Civil War, and Harriet became one of the first black women to own property in Cape Girardeau. In 2019, a statue was erected to honor those who served in the United States Colored Troops.

The Special Collections and Archives table showcased recent acquisitions from an event held in October for African American alumni who were part of greek organizations on campus. These acquisitions included T-shirts, a purse and a shield. They also provided African American history books.

Shaquira Blackman, vice president of the Black Student Union, said the group hopes to expand their organization beyond their current membership.

“Even though freshman are our main target, we want to get [current students] more involved and let them know that this is a safe haven,” Blackman said. “You can come here if you need help or if you feel alone,”

Roxanne Dunn, Special Collections and Archives librarian, also hopes to use the event to expand the archives’ collection on African American history at Southeast.

“We don’t have a lot of collections that document the black experience and African American history, so this is a really good opportunity to talk to current students and see if they want to consider donating some of their sorority or fraternity’s materials to the archives,” Dunn said.

Hoffman said Southeast has more to offer than meets the eye in terms of black history.

“There is more local black history that we don’t know than the little bit that we do know, and hopefully that will change,” Hoffman said. “The experiences that happened here are unique. These things happened all over in places like ours. The struggle for equality didn’t just happen over there, it also happened here in our area.”

Leap into 2020 showcased the importance of understanding black history as well as encouraged celebration of black history to continue outside of Black History Month.

“Everyone has history, you should know where you came from, who you came from and where you are supposed to be going,” Blackman said.