In terms of the world of prejudice and racism, much has happened in the last 40 years. The development of minorities in the education system and political process has improved greatly, and we have gone from a time when it was hard for blacks to put a vote in the ballot box to a time when a black man can be in the White House. Some might think that the effect the black population has on the community is only spontaneous, with great leaders and thinkers appearing from decade to decade. However, the impact blacks have can be seen every day. This is what Black Solidarity Day was created to express.
Black Solidarity Day was created in 1969 as a day nationally observed by African-American men, women and students. It always occurs the Monday before elections take place; this year it falls on Nov. 2. Originally, the event brought black people together to discuss their political status and the direction in which their future was going. The day also focused on the value and goals of education within the black community. It was, and still is, a day of discussion and a time for everyone, no matter of what race or education, to discuss how we all affect each other’s lives.
Discussion is important to Black Solidarity Day, as well as the concept of it as a day of absence, during which black people do not attend school or work and try to avoid making purchases and spending money throughout the day. These actions only further demonstrate the impact the black community has on the workplace and its stimulation of the nation’s economy.
So what does the black community add to the classroom and the workplace? Mainly, perspective. No matter what social class, city or personality someone comes from in the black community, their perspective always can add to a classroom discussion, university policies and faculty meetings. Other people don’t have to feel obligated to understand the pressures and experiences that are shared, but at least they will know. Knowledge is the first step to understanding.
I am a half-black, half-Puerto Rican male who, on the outside, mostly comes off as black. I went to a predominantly Caucasian private high school in downtown Chicago and had a very eye-opening experience. I volunteered with a group of fellow students at a homeless shelter during my junior year. We were cleaning out a large closet of toys and supplies and organizing its items in the basement. While doing so, many of the children who lived at the homeless shelter, predominantly black, started to take toys and we told them they couldn’t take them away. The Caucasian supervisor of the shelter helped us make sure the kids stopped taking toys away.
Moments later, while I was taking a box of toys down to the basement, the supervisor stopped me and asked, “Where do you think you’re going with those?”
“To the basement,” I said.
“And why is that?” he asked me angrily.
“Um, because, uh, that’s what you wanted us to do right?” I asked worriedly. I had no idea what I was doing wrong.
“Oh, you’re with the school group,” he said.
It took me a couple of seconds to answer, but I mouthed, “Yes.” The supervisor walked away and I stood in place, frozen. All my fellow classmates were frozen as well, digesting the event.
One broke the silence and said, “That was the most racist thing that I’ve ever seen.”
If you haven’t realized it, the supervisor believed that I lived in the homeless shelter. The only reason for which I think he could have possibly thought that was the color of my skin. What does this experience have to do with anything? Well, it was more for my classmates than for me. My classmates became aware of the blatant racism that even kids their own age experience, and they became more vocal when it came to conversations about diversity and prejudice.
This is what Black Solidarity Day hopes to instill. While celebrating our own culture and history, the black community wants to express how our experiences impact the experiences that we have in the classroom and workplace. The black community has a voice in this nation, and the nation has not yet fully realized how large that voice is. So to help support making this voice known, join the Pan-African Alliance in celebrating Black Solidarity Day. It will be held on Nov. 2 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the lower patio of the Mayer Campus Center. There will be performances by Tufts student groups, a student speech and a faculty speech by new black history professor Peniel Joseph, as well as the opportunity for students to express themselves through spoken word. To show even more support, wear all black or the colors of the Pan-African flag (red, black and green). Please come and support, and just remember the effects our actions have on others.
Ben Serrano is a freshman majoring in English. He is the freshman representative for the Pan-African Alliance.