CMI hosts annual African American Celebration Month

AuJenee Hirsch, Staff Reporter

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All throughout the U.S., Black History Month is celebrated during February to honor the African Americans who fought during the civil rights movement.

Every year at Oakland University, the Center for Multicultural Initiatives kicks things off early by hosting the African American Celebration Month with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Jan. 16, marking the start of the celebration.

Denise Thompkins-Jones is a retention coordinator for the CMI. She is one of the CMI liaisons for AACM and has been overseeing the event for the past four years.

“AACM promotes diversity, inclusion and acceptance across campus,” Thompkins-Jones said. “By gaining exposure to cultures and traditions that differ from your own, you can further your own awareness of others’ experiences.”

The monthlong celebration is planned by a committee of Oakland faculty who come together from various departments.

“As a committee, we assisted with some of the logistical planning for all the events,” Thompkins-Jones said. “We specifically oversee all the planning for Opening Ceremony, Taste of Africa and Closing Ceremony.”

AACM kicked off with its Opening Ceremony and the Keeper of the Dream Awards, both held Jan. 16 in the Oakland Center. The ceremony paid tribute to the heritage and culture that stems from African roots, as well as historical and cultural contributions African Americans have made in the past, present and future.

Mina Fuqua, a freshman at OU, has attended all of the AACM events thus far. She continues to attend because she sees the events as opportunities to learn about her heritage.

“I really enjoyed the opening ceremony,” Fuqua said. “I loved seeing where a part of me came from and learning about a huge part of my heritage.”

Some of the most successful events so far have been the Opening Ceremony, Hump Day and Black Cinema Movie Night. At each event, students got the chance to experience something different.

During the Hump Day event, students learned about black historical features, and during the Movie Night, students watched the film “13th,” which depicts about the hardships African Americans have faced in the past.

“As an African American, I try to stay informed on the things that are going on among the black community, but watching ‘13th’ really shook me to the core,” Fuqua said. “Seeing the challenges many African Americans face definitely made me not want to take the little things, like using a public restroom, for granted.”

With AACM halfway over, there are still 14 more events students can attend. One of the celebration’s biggest events, Taste of Africa, will be held 4-7 p.m. on Feb. 3 in the Oakland Center Banquet Rooms.

Taste of Africa is one of the few events open to the general public during AACM. Attendees will be able to taste authentic African cuisine and see African drumming and spiritual music. Thompkins-Jones expects a big turnout for the event.

“Taste of Africa generally will bring in more the 500 attendees,” she said.

AACM will end with the Closing Ceremony 12-1 p.m. on Feb. 15 in the Gold Rooms of the Oakland Center. For a full calendar of events, visit https://oakland.edu/cmi/aacm/.