Throughout February, several of the university's student-based organizations are sponsoring a series of events and fundraisers in honor of Black History Month.
"This is an event that's significant for our students, and we're very happy to observe Black History Month at the university," said Melody Rodriguez, founder and director of the Hispanic Outreach and Leadership at Armstrong program. "We have a large percentage of African-American students at the university who are going to not only be proud of their heritage and what they're bringing with the observation of the events but also be able to share their history and culture with other students and the community."
Believing African-Americans were overlooked and ignored in history books, historian and founder of the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History Carter Godwin Woodson created Negro History Week in 1926. He chose the second week of February to coincide with the birthdays of President Abraham Lincoln — Feb. 12 — and Frederick Douglass — Feb. 14.
"If a race has no history, if it has no worthwhile traditions, it becomes a negligible factor in the thought of the world, and it stands in danger of being exterminated," Woodson once said.
Fifty years later, this theme-oriented tradition extended to include the entire month of February and continues to celebrate the accomplishments and contributions of successful African-Americans.
With this year's theme of black women in American history and culture, Armstrong's chapters of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the African Caribbean Student Organization screened "Daughters of the Dust" in the Ogeechee Theater of the Student Union Feb. 6. The film is set in 1902 and centers on the lives of three generations of Gullah women from the once-isolated islands off the coasts of South Carolina and Georgia.
On Feb. 27, the core ensemble will also perform "Ain't I a Woman!" This chamber music theater work celebrates the lives of four African-American women: novelist Zora Neale Hurston, abolitionist Sojourner Truth, folk artist ClementineHunter and civil rights worker Fannie Lou Hamer.
However, not all of the university's Black History Month events will be centered around this year's theme. While Armstrong has a long history of service and benevolence for the city of Savannah, NAACP, ACSO, Collegiate 100 andHOLA hope to raise funds and awareness in an effort to make a global difference.
"Last year during summer, there was this big news event about the eastern hemisphere of Africa — mainly focusing on the Somalia-Sudan area — and there was a famine and just a shortage of food in general," said Haddy Gassama, president of ACSO. "I believe the UN predicted something like 600,000 kids were going to go without food and pretty much die unless something was done about it.
"It was a huge news story, but I also saw that it disappeared just as quickly as it came because, of course, there were other stories.
"However, the situation is still going on. It's improved only a little, so I think for us as young people, it's important to be aware of these things that are going on around the world as opposed to just staying in our own Armstrong world."
At all of the events, the groups will be collecting canned food and monetary donations for the East African Famine Relief's efforts. From Feb. 13 through Feb. 17, they will host a bake sale called "Feed Yourself; Feed a Child," in the Student Union. All the proceeds from the sale will be donated to the World Hunger Program. NAACP and ACSO will also host a party at 8 p.m. in the Student Union Feb. 17.
"The party on the 17th is not just a mere party, but it's entitled ‘What a Dollar Can Do,' showing that we're giving $1 to come to this party, but it has a much bigger meaning behind it," said Dominique Hardy, president of the NAACP. "The reason why we're hosting this party is so that we can help someone else."
The Coastal Health District will also administer free HIV/AIDS testing, sponsored by NAACP, Collegiate 100 and HOLA.
"It's pretty important because not just in the African-American but in minority communities as well, HIV and AIDS are prevalent — killing thousands, millions yearly — and a lot of lives could be prolonged if they just got tested," Hardy said.
The initiative to give free HIV/AIDS a originated as a project for Hardy's gender and women studies class last semester.
"Initially, I was just doing it for my grade, but when I saw the need — before we even opened the doors, people were waiting outside. I estimate that we had 60 plus people come," Hardy said. "It was to the point where we got put out of the room because we only had it reserved for two hours. There were more people trying to come, so we decided to bring this initiative back."
In an effort to educate the student body about African-American history, the NAACP will also be posting little-known information around the Student Union.
"A lot of the things, you'd be surprised, like NAACP. The biggest misconception is that it's only for black people, but it was actually started by two Caucasian people," Hardy said. "You got things like that that people just don't know.
"Collegiate 100 is hosting an ‘Ebony and Ivory' party where the predominantly black organizations and the predominantly white organizations on campus are going to join together and have a party," Gassama said.
During the last week of February, "Ebony and Ivory" will highlight unity in the student body, and all its proceeds will be donated to the relief effort.
"At the end of the day, I think it's a pretty good initiative. When you look at it, what we're selling is ‘Unity equals power,' and power is where change comes in, so it's going to have to start with a unified body," Hardy said.
While February's events are centered on the culture of African-Americans, nearly half of Armstrong's population consists of minority groups.
"The politically correct way to say it in the United States is that we are people of color or women of color," Rodriguez said. "I don't identify myself as that. I don't see myself as a minority. I see myself as an American.
"It's awesome to see that Armstrong has embraced multiculturalism and is very diverse. I mean we are an extremely diverse campus compared to all the other campuses in the USG system.
"You see diversity of age. You see diversity of ethnicity, race and belief. Military, nonmilitary — we have so much, and it's sort of woven into the fabric of the people that make up the university."