OMSA lines February with Black History Month events, ‘Shades of Blackness’ theme

Office of Multicultural Affairs has dozens of events planned for Black History Month, including Hip Hop bingo. Photo by Marlena Artis

Katie Hollowell, Contributing Writer 

Neon green bingo cards covered tables last Wednesday as hundreds of students joined the Activities Planning Board to guess songs by 2 Chainz, Drake and Chief Keef for Hip Hop Bingo.

This was one of the first events to kick off Black History Month this year from the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs. This year’s theme, “Shades of Blackness: Fruits of our Roots,” is meant to spark conversations around what it means to be black around the world.

Here are some upcoming events happening later this week:

  • Black History Month Jeopardy on Thursday from 7:30 p.m. – 9 p.m., Alumni Board Room, University Student Commons
  • Black History Museum of Central Virginia Tour on Friday from 11:30 a.m. – 2 p.m., 122 W. Leigh St.
  • “Queen & Slim” Screening on Friday from 6 – 11 p.m., Commons Theater, University Student Commons

The idea for the theme came about by trying to identify blackness and understand that its roots are deep and global.

“We’re a bunch of trees with no roots, our focus is how do we find those roots?” Ingram said. “How do we identify outside of the patriarchy, capitalism, and white supremacy?” 

The Activities Planning Board hosts a bingo night every month, and the group decided to make it relevant to Black History Month by giving it a hip-hop theme.

“They worked together to figure out something we thought the students would like, and it would be something anybody could come to,” said senior and Weekend Programming Coordinator Amari Samaya. “If you listen to music, you could come and play the game.”

Fashion merchandising major and avid bingo night attendee Maia Mitchell said bingo night is a stepping stone for students to become more involved.

“I feel like it’s important because it brings people together,” the sophomore said. “It’s a way to get people out of their shells and involved in the community with their peers.” 

With more than 20 programs planned for this month, OMSA has been putting together the events since November with a committee of students, faculty, alumni and community members. The group partnered with multiple student organizations and offices such as APB, Sisters & Stethoscopes, Recreational Sports, Sigma Gamma Rho sorority and the da Vinci Center. 

Activities Planning Board Director of Outreach Ashli Phillips outlines the rules at Hip Hop bingo. Photo by Marlena Artis

VCU alum and Programming Coordinator for OMSA Tiana Ingram said the programs planned this month can appeal to students of many interests. 

“A lot of these events are really fun and informal,” Ingram said. “We try to have broad events where everyone can come and then more focused events.”

APB member and mass communications major Angelique James discussed the importance of the Black History Month events.

“I love it. It’s great. I definitely think everyone comes out for it, it’s not just black people,” the sophomore said. “It is a great cause.”

Ingram estimated $4,000 was allocated for Black History Month out of OMSA’s overall academic year budget. OMSA focuses on six heritage months, and each month receives the same amount of funding.

Tuesday night, the black sexual health program took place in partnership with Sisters & Stethoscopes, a student organization for black women who want to be health care professionals in the future.

President of Sisters & Stethoscopes and junior nursing major Jessica Lister said one of the reasons for the panel was that it’s important to talk about sexual health in terms of racial identities.

“Taking pride in being black and making sure our members know what risks are increased, like STIs, because they’re black,” Lister said. “Unfortunately a lot of people didn’t receive the best sexual education when they were in school, so just trying to give them an additional opportunity to be educated on that.”

Lister said some racial groups are at a higher risk for certain infections such as bacterial vaginosis, a type of bacterial infection in the vagina. Black women specifically are more likely to contract bacterial vaginosis than women of other races, according to the Vaginal Human Microbiome Project conducted here at VCU.

“We’re putting that information out there,” Lister said, “so our members and anyone else is aware and can protect themselves accordingly.”

A full schedule of OMSA’s Black History Month programming can be found at omsa.vcu.edu.

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