By: Wei Cai '20
AMHERST – Community and students came together for performances and thought-provoking conversations at the Malcolm X Cultural Center’s Black Heritage Month dinner on Feb. 21.
The dinner – which took place from 7-9 p.m. in the Amherst Room – celebrated the triumphs of black persons and acknowledged the struggles they have faced locally and in society.
Welcoming guests to the dinner, Trinity Monteiro, an event coordinator at the Malcolm X Cultural Center said, “Tonight, we bring together people from all walks of life … Tonight, we recognize, hear, see and celebrate that work, specifically of the black community.”
Monteiro added, “… I challenge you to all to release what some may refer to as the burden of being black, release the hate you receive or witness, release the pressure that cripples our own shoulders or the shoulders of those you are closest to…”
Excerpt from Al-Bilali's students performing. (Liping Lin/CMASS)
As guests ate, Judyie Al-Bilali – a University of Massachusetts Amherst alumna and current theater professor at the university – took the podium to address the crowd before her students performed for the attendees.
“I want to inspire and encourage a bold tradition that [creates and celebrates black heritage],” said Al-Bilali.
Al-Bilali then went on to discuss both the relationship between black persons and the campus as well as society. Al-Bilali said, “[The 1960s] was a dress rehearsal for what’s coming now” – noting recent acts of hate towards black persons.
The event concluded with a series of questions and discussion involving the audience and performers.
June Lukuyu, an international graduate student, said that she came to the event to learn more about the struggles black persons face in America. Lukuyu was also motivated by the current political climate in the United States.
Above all, Lukuyu said she came out “to have fun and enjoy the conversation.”
This event was held as part of the Malcolm X Cultural Center’s events celebrating Black Heritage Month.
Earlier that week, the center hosted Steve Strimer, director of the David Ruggles Center, for a lecture on Florence, Mass. and its connection to slavery. Following the dinner, the center also hosted a walking tour of Florence to visit the sites on Saturday.