Each year, Mercer County Community College’s (MCCC) Black History Month Committee meets to coordinate myriad events highlighting the importance of black history. Unlike in previous years, this year’s program will be conducted remotely due to the challenges of COVID-19.
“If we can teach classes remotely, we can have Black History Month remotely,” said Lucia Brown, College Bursar and Interim One Stop Center Director at MCCC. “We reached out to everybody and we tried to keep them engaged [and] keep them connected to the college.”
When Brown first began working for the college 18 years ago, she was shocked that there was no Black History Month committee or organization operating to highlight the importance of Black culture and history. Immediately, she began working with the college to form a club that would soon evolve into a committee.
“I was just doing it through the African American Student Organization (AASO) and we would have to depend on funds from Student Life and Leadership in order to pay for these events,” said Brown. “So [former Vice Present of Student Affairs] Dr. Campbell said, ‘why don’t you just form a committee? Let’s work on you and get everybody from all around campus.'”
After the advice, Brown began recruiting members from around the campus for the Black History Month Committee. Over the years, she enlisted Pamela Price, Director of Library Services; Kitty Getlik, Artistic Director of Kelsey Theatre; Danielle Garruba, Director of Student Life & Leadership; Stacy Denton, Director of Trio Upward Bound; Tonia Harrison, Information Technology Services; Stefanie Williams, Student Advocate for the Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF); and Al-Lateef Farmer, Interim Director of EOF. With this diverse group of leaders representing various sectors of the college, the Black History Month committee has developed a team able to produce a wider variety of events.
This year is no different. During the month of February, MCCC has coordinated six different events for students, faculty and the local community to partake in virtually via Zoom. Each event surrounds this year’s Black History Month theme, “The Family.”
On February 1st, the committee introduced the month with a panel discussion titled, ‘The Pandemic and The Black Family.’ From 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., a select group of MCCC faculty and community members spoke on the new dynamic within families the COVID-19 pandemic has created.
“It was really intense,” said Brown. “We hit on the social aspect of the pandemic [and] how it affected the family socially and economically. We touched on education; what effect it was having and [Dr. Yannick Ladson from MCCC’s Counseling and Community Network] talked about the mental effect it’s having and the physical effects. [Geralda Aldajuste of MCCC’s Funeral Services] talked about the grief people feel from not being able to see their loved ones when they pass away, even the grief of not being able to see their loved ones when they’re in nursing homes.”
She continued, “It was an awesome experience. So everybody that didn’t make it, they missed out.”
The panel discussion had around 35 attendees. With the pandemic and recent snow, Brown worries the community may think Black History Month celebrations have been canceled. However, she wants to ensure that, as of now, all events are still set to run throughout the rest of the month.
The next event to be held in celebration of Black History Month is on Wednesday, February 10 at 12:00 p.m. Via zoom, the community can participate in a Black History Month game show. According to Brown, this game show is a hit every year.
“It’s a trivia game where they’re going to be questions about Black History Month and a gambit of different questions,” said Brown. “That’s also at lunchtime, so we can catch most of the students when they’re on their lunch break.”
Following the game show, the Black History Month Committee put together a student discussion panel called, ‘Our Families, Our Stories.’ The panel will be held on Friday, February 12 at 12:00 p.m.
“We’re going to be talking about diversity, equity and inclusion, and how [students] see themselves fitting into their families,” said Brown. “We have a whole series of pictures and they’re going to have to pick one and explain why they think that that embodies what they see their family to be. Then, the audience is going to be able to ask questions. I’m looking forward to it.”
On Friday, February 19, the Black History Month Committee will be showcasing two different prerecorded shows for what they are calling ‘Movie Day.’ The prerecorded shows are former footage of plays performed two years ago at Kelsey Theatre, specifically written for MCCC. Brown said, “It’s going to be like showing a movie, but it’s a movie of us; a movie of Mercer people doing these two original plays.”
The two plays to be broadcasted are ‘Tubman 7A’ and ‘Sistas’ written by Ron Perry. Both productions are family-oriented shows that discuss specific dynamics of relationships between family members. ‘Tubman 7A’ will be broadcasted at noon and ‘Sistas’ will be broadcasted at 7:00 p.m.
On February 23 at 12:00 p.m., the community has an opportunity to participate in Black History Month Music Video Bingo. Participants will be asked to listen to an audio recording, guess the song title, and then locate it on their bingo cards.
“I’m looking forward to that one because I love Bingo,” said Brown. “I used to play at the Catholic Church when I lived in New Brunswick. They had bingo every Tuesday night and I would rush home from work to go to Bingo. It’s going to be fun.”
To close off a month of celebrations, the Black History Month Committee at MCCC managed to book well-known author and chef, Michael W. Twitty, for an event they are calling, ‘Stories from the Cast Iron.’ During this event, which takes place Friday, February 26 at noon, Twitty will be sharing prominent stories of Black history through the means of food.
“He tells the history of people from the foods that they eat,” said Brown. “He’s also going to have a link where we can purchase his book, The Cooking Gene, at a reduced rate on that day.”
The Black History Month Committee understands students and the community may be tired of Zoom calls and virtual environments after an exhausting year through a pandemic. However, with the importance that Black History Month holds, they are urging everyone to partake in the celebrations this February.
“I get a lot of satisfaction, bringing this history back to the young people so they understand it,” said Brown. “My mother was a schoolteacher, and she would always tell us, ‘you don’t know where you’re going if you don’t know from where you came.’ So, if you don’t know your history, how are you going to know what your future is going to be like? I took that to heart.”
To participate in Mercer County Community College’s Black History Month Events, visit:
Black History Month Game Show: Zoom Meeting ID – 886 6506 6940
Black History Music Video Bingo: http://bit.ly/bingobhm
Stories from the Cast Iron: http://bit.ly/mccccastiron
All other events: http://bit.ly/mcccbhm