Faces of UAlbany: Students Reflect on Black History Month

Four photo portraits in a row four students

ALBANY, N.Y. (Feb. 20, 2024) — Black History Month is celebrated throughout the month of February, to focus and reflect on the contributions and legacy of African Americans in U.S. history, culture and society. Savanna Stoddart ’24, a communication major and an intern with the Office of Communications and Marketing, spent time this month profiling fellow students to get their thoughts on Black History Month. 

Nakisha Williams, dressed in black, stands in front of a window filled with posters
Photo by Savanna Stoddart

Nakisha Williams ’23, 
Graduate Assistant for Multicultural Affairs and Intercultural Student Engagement 
Master's student in Mental Health Counseling

“Black History Month is first about recognition, in terms of holding space for society to acknowledge the contributions of African Americans throughout history and to this day. Obviously, a month could never be enough, but it is important that there is that time to honor this community and uplift the people in it. It also means action: OK, we've acknowledged what's been done, now what? What are the next steps to ensure that this community does not continue to be overlooked or tossed to the side come March 1? What can you do to engage with and immerse yourself in an appreciation for African American culture? How can you empower African Americans around you? 

“This is why it's important to celebrate — to have a moment where society pauses, recognizes what has been before us and thinks about what more can be done as we move forward. 

“People should know that Black history is more than what the history books or classes highlight or don't highlight. It's more than facts and dates. Black history is the people behind all the suffering, all the disadvantages, all the contributions, all the culture. It's the people that have walked this earth before us and the ones that continue to do so despite what society will always have pinned against them. It is the people who had to find power, solace and belonging in traditions and experiences. Embracing Black people, amplifying Black voices and curating spaces for us to thrive in will always be a step in the right direction.”

T’Oluwanimi Ademola-Thomas, in green tunic and pants, walks across the Podium
Photo by Savanna Stoddart

T’Oluwanimi Ademola-Thomas ’24 
Director of Intercultural Affairs for the Student Association, president of Sankofa Africa Organization, vice president of Brother2Brother 

“Black history is a celebration of a culture that’s illuminated our country for centuries. Our innovations, our creativity, and rich tradition are all parts of our history embedded in our skin. It’s important to celebrate our history because American history ceases to exist without Black history. “Black history” didn’t begin in America, it began in the great continent of Africa. Despite the shortcomings, our people still continue to persevere and progress. I’d like every Black man, woman, boy and girl to know that God created our skin with a purpose. We are beautiful, handsome and designed for greatness.” 

Kevisha Manning, wearing glasses and a black shirt, stands on a staircase
Photo by Savanna Stoddart

Kevisha Manning ’24 
President of ASUBA, executive advisor of Pan-Caribbean Association 

“To me, Black History Month is important because it allows everyone across the country to really pause and appreciate how influential Black Culture really is. It is important to celebrate this month every year because it recognizes the struggles that the Black community has been forced to endure since our introduction to this land.

“I want people to know that Black history and Black culture isn't simply limited to the month of February. Our society would not be where it is today without the contributions from the Black community.”

Keon Williams
Photo by Savanna Stoddart

Keon Williams ’24 
Public relations chair of ASUBA, vice president of PCA, treasurer of NAACP 

“Black History to me is unity in which we all come together to celebrate the achievements that African Americans have accomplished. Being a young black man is a representation to feel pleased to be different and special. The celebration of Black History Month is an essential part of education, helping to inform people about the historical injustices, struggles, and triumphs of the black community. Society promotes diversity and inclusion, thereby educating people to appreciate the richness of cultural diversity and fostering a sense of unity among individuals from different backgrounds.

“Black history is not limited to struggles and hardships; it is also about important contributions to a wide range of disciplines, such as politics, arts and sports. Learning about these contributions helps to dispel stereotypes and highlights the positive impact of black individuals to society. Black history is also a testament to the resilience and strength of the Black community in the face of adversity, including slavery, segregation and systemic racism.

“Acknowledging this resilience is important to understanding the context of current social issues and work towards a more just and inclusive future. Black culture has had a profound impact on language, dance, fashion, music, and more. More togetherness and interconnectedness are fostered by acknowledging and valuing these cultural contributions.”