University celebrates Black History Month


African-American Faculty and Staff Coalition President H. Vashon Brown, Jr. gives the closing remarks at Black Heritage Program.

Robyn McNeil, Copy Editor

The Francis Marion University (FMU) African-American Faculty and Staff Coalition and Office of Multicultural Affairs celebrated black history, culture and achievement at the annual Black Heritage Month Program on Monday, Feb.4 in the Chapman Auditorium.

Jamal Lightbourne, a freshman majoring in political science, gave the ceremony’s opening remarks.  Lightbourne said that the program emphasized the significance of African-American heritage and its impact on society.

“The purpose of the program is to give the Francis Marion community a clear understanding of black heritage, its history and the many contributions African-Americans have bestowed upon America,” Lightbourne said.  “We hope the program will foster a sense of diversity appreciation while honoring those who paved the way for others to follow.”

The ceremony began with a presentation by the FMU gospel choir, Young, Gifted and Blessed (YGB).  Choir member Curkroy Brown, a junior music major, explained that the song entitled “Hold Out” is about overcoming adversity and celebrates African-American achievement.

“The message is that you should stand strong and be able to persevere no matter what is thrown your way,” Brown said.

YGB’s performance was followed by a presentation by FMU dance team Praise in Motion.  The dance team performed three selections: an African tribal dance and two interpretive dances that emphasized strength and perseverance.

Keynote speaker Chakisse Newton presented the central address for the event.  Newton, a South Carolina businesswoman and social activist, delivered the speech “Butterfly Moments.”

Newton explained why she feels it is important to address students and how she believes her abilities as a speaker can offer them encouragement.

“I believe that everyone has gifts to share,” Newton said.  “One of my gifts has always been my ability to communicate.  Speaking gives me the opportunity to share my gifts and use it as a means to encourage other people to share theirs.”

According to Newton, a “butterfly moment” occurs when a small act has a big impact. She explained that the overall goal of the speech was to help students realize that individual acts of compassion and courage have the potential to create great change.

“The people who make history start small, and a small step ends in success,” Newton said. “The secret is you have to take one step and then keep stepping.  What leaders know, and what people who want to make history know, is that you have to start where you are.”

Jasmine Wright, a senior majoring in mass communication, attended the event and said that she was inspired by Newton’s speech and feels that students can benefit from the message.

“Newton’s message made it clear to me that anything can be accomplished regardless of the situation or hurdles that life throws at us,” Wright said.  “We could take away a sense of pride and awareness of our culture and past as well as the knowledge and empowerment to create history of our own.”