By Shannon Nia Alomar
February is Black History Month, and Hofstra celebrated by hosting a Black History Month reception hosted by the Multicultural and INternational Student Programming Office (MISPO).
The theme for MISPO's Black History celebration this year is, "Be a part of the Hofstra Picture," which proved to be fitting as the audience was entertained by Hofstra student organzations. Performances included the Hofstra Gospel Ensemble in conjunction with Hofstra-MFA poet Koro Koroye, Strictly Steppin' and Sixth Element.
Dr. Christopher Emdin was the keynote speaker for the event and is an associate professor in the Department of Mathematics, Science and Technology at Teachers College, Columbia University. He's also known for co-creating a social media movement entitled #HipHopEd, in which participants discuss topics surrounding race, culture, inequality and education.
"Normally Black History Month speakers say the same things that have been said before, but I said one day, if I'm given the chance to be one of those speakers, I'm going to be different," Emdin said.
Mary-Ann Mason, a 65-year-old community attendee, has attended several of Hofstra's Black History Months over the last 15 years and said that Emdin was the first speaker she has witnessed on campus who was able to touch on issues of "cultural fallacies" regarding minority communities. To sum up her overall outlook on the event, Mason said, "It was entertaining, uplifting, encouraging and I enjoyed it!"
Mason was not the only person who openly expressed her approval of the keynote speech delivered. Throughout its duration, audience members' claps, head-nods and verbal agreements proved that Emdin's message was received positively, even though some students voice their skepticism regarding advertising for the event.
In addition to the performances and keynote speech, MISPO had a display piece which paid special attention to significant events surrounding the African- American community on Hofstra's campus throughout the years. Some of the highlighted moment included: the first African-American student enrolled at Hofstra, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. being honored in 1965 and Ruby Stewart, one of the first of eight students enrolled in the New Opportunities at Hofstra (NOAH) program.
Danielle Williams, a junior psychology major and current NOAH undergraduate student, was excited to see Ruby Stewart's photograph on display.
"Being a NOAH student and knowing that NOAH was the first [Higher Education Opportunities Program] HEOP program in the country, being able to see one of those initial students just really warms my heart and just gave my attendance here a deeper meaning," Williams said.
Another figure who was recognized at the event was John Stergis. Stergis, a Hofstra alumnus and current Public Safety employee, spoke to the audience reminiscing on his experience as a Hofstra student in the 1980s.
During his time as a student, Stergis became the first African-American Homecoming king, as well as the first African-American elected president of the Student Government Association. He spoke to the "young people" in the room specifically to encourage them to utilize their resources to accomplish great things at Hofstra and beyond.
"If you have a vision, make sure it is dignified in regard to what you want to do," Stergis said to conclude his mini-speech.