As Black Heritage Month approached this year, I spent a lot of time speaking to friends and thinking about how to celebrate the occasion. I wanted to find a way to share something that means so much to me with the broader SOM community. I have always loved performing arts and decided to sit down to brainstorm with Marema Diop, Suezette Weir, and Feruz Erizku—who are first-year leaders with the Africa Business & Society Club and Black Business Alliance—around Thanksgiving to think about ways to celebrate Black Heritage Month through this medium. It was during this meeting that the concept of “BlackOut” was born. As students who embody various identities within the African diaspora, yet who all identify as black, we wanted to honor this diversity and unity at the same time. We felt that it was necessary to highlight the beauty, positivity, resilience, and richness of AfroHeritage, and set out to create a program that would truly embody this celebratory and uplifting spirit. Over the next few months, we collaborated with students within SOM, the broader graduate school community, and many students at Yale College to assemble performances and contributions that we felt would help to pay homage to AfroHeritage. Planning this event was a very daunting task, as it was the first event of this kind ever held at SOM. However, as the day of the celebration drew near, many of the performances and acts began to fall into place.
To further the celebratory atmosphere, we served cuisine from Egypt, Ethiopia, the Caribbean, and Southern-style soul food at BlackOut. The event was held in the Beinecke Auditorium and began with Emmanuel Ohuabunwa ’17 and Lucas Johnson ’18 playing the African drums to set the atmosphere, followed by a mini keynote from SOM Director of Community & Inclusion Tiffany Gooden discussing the creation of the African diaspora. The night featured several lively performances: spoken word pieces performed by students from Yale College, an African dance, a Hip-Hop and Caribbean dance, and song performances. There were over 100 attendees at the event, and throughout the night, the energy and spirit coarsing throughout the room was high.
We are thrilled with BlackOut’s success and the positive reception from the Yale community. The event played out exactly as we envisioned it, and we are hopeful that BlackOut will become an enduring annual tradition at SOM. Keep your eyes open for next year’s BlackOut. We hope that it will continue to grow and evolve.