Celebrating Black history: A glance at the events taking place this month at VCU

Virtual lectures and discussions — including VCU alumni panels and a talk about Richmond’s African American cemeteries — highlight this year’s university events for Black History Month.

"Black History Month" written in front of paint strokes of red, yellow, and green.
Dozens of events — most virtual — will take place over the next few weeks as VCU celebrates Black History Month. (Getty Images)

Virginia Commonwealth University this week will kick off a month of events celebrating Black history as it joins organizations and individuals around the country recognizing achievements by African Americans.

As in the past, Black History Month events at the university will be hosted by many campus organizations and offices. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the majority will be virtual. Throughout the month, the Black American Artists Alliance of Richmond will exhibit their most current visual arts at the Gateway Gallery on the second floor of the Gateway Building on the MCV Campus. Every Thursday and Friday, the kitchen at VCU Medical Center Main Hospital will celebrate Black History Month by honoring food traditions new and old through cuisine. And the fourth annual Black Lives Matter RVA Art Show will hold its gallery opening virtually Feb. 5 from 7-9 p.m., beginning a yearlong series of programming featuring 132 works from 83 artists, among them several with VCU connections.

For a list of events and hosting offices organized through the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs, visit the Black History Month events page online. Meanwhile, here’s a look at some of the individual and recurring events and programs taking place throughout the month: 

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Above and beyond: A survey of the response of Black Richmonders to the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918 

Feb. 2, 9 a.m.

Discussion featuring author Elvatrice Belsches, co-founder of the Central Virginia African-American Genealogical and Historical Society. 

VCU Libraries 2021 Black History Month lecture

Feb. 3, 7 p.m.

Featuring Marcia Chatelain, Ph.D., professor of history and African American studies at Georgetown University and author of “Franchise: The Golden Arches in Black America.”

Black alumni across the industries panel series: Health care, science and research

Feb. 4, noon

Featuring Black VCU alumni in the health care industry.

From Shockoe to Evergreen: Richmond’s African American cemeteries

Feb. 9, 9 a.m.

Featuring Ryan Smith, Ph.D., a professor in the Department of History in the College of Humanities and Sciences.

Cancers below the belt

Feb. 9, 10 a.m.

Prostate and colorectal cancers affect African American communities at higher rates — both in diagnoses and mortality. Cancers below the belt, co-hosted by the C. Kenneth and Dianne Wright Center for Clinical and Translational Research and VCU Massey Cancer Center, is part of a quarterly Health Equity Series. The event features Debbie Cadet, Ph.D., VCU Massey Cancer Center project director for education and outreach activities related to cancer prevention and control and health disparities, and a panel of speakers discussing advances and gaps in research on prostate and colorectal cancers.

Black alumni across the industries panel series: Communications, marketing and media

Feb. 11, noon

Featuring Black VCU alumni in the communications industry. 

Reversing barriers: Working toward sustainable institutional transformation 

Feb. 10, noon 

Menah Pratt-Clarke, a writer, scholar, activist and advocate, will deliver a presentation on institutional transformation revolving around diversity, equity and inclusion. The event is part of a VCU College of Health Professions series. Pratt-Clarke is vice president for strategic affairs and vice provost for inclusion and diversity at Virginia Tech. She also holds a faculty appointment as a professor in the School of Education in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences and is affiliated with Africana Studies, Women’s and Gender Studies, and the Department of Sociology. 

Vogue: A History

Feb. 11, 4 p.m.

This event will educate participants about the history and origins of vogue — a highly stylized modern dance closely tied to the ballroom culture created by Black and Latinx LGBTQ+ youth in the 1980s — and will be followed by a dance lesson. 

Black radical tradition

Feb. 12, 5 p.m.

Join two current local activists and a civil rights activist for a panel discussion about the past, present and future of Black activism.

Intro to the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia

Feb. 16, 9 a.m. 

A discussion with Mary Lauderdale, visitor services manager for the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia. 

Mother knows best 

Feb. 17, 7 p.m.

A panel discussion centering on the  voices of house mothers and fathers and elders within the queer and transgender communities, highlighting journeys of empowerment, mentorship, service and the shaping of Black queer and trans youth nationally. 

Black alumni across the industries panel series: Technology

Feb. 18, noon

Featuring Black VCU alumni in the technology industry. 

Building Black girl sanctuaries: The creative and aesthetic practices of Black girlhood

Feb. 18, noon 

This event will feature discussion of how Black girls make use of art and creative expression in ways that ultimately give the world new possibilities on how to live boundless and free. 

Presumed criminal: Black youth and the justice system in postwar New York 

Feb. 19, noon

Featuring Carl Suddler, Ph.D., an assistant professor of history at Emory University, in conversation with Michael Dickinson, Ph.D., an assistant professor of history in the VCU Department of History. Suddler’s book, “Presumed Criminal: Black Youth and the Justice System in Postwar New York,” was published in 2019. His research examines the intersections of youth, race and crime in the U.S. 

Black Jews in North America

Feb. 23, 7 p.m.

A panel discussion moderated by David Weinfeld, Ph.D., a visiting assistant professor in the School of World Studies in the College of Humanities and Sciences. 

Do they actually listen? Health care advocacy in the Black community

Feb. 24, 6 p.m.

This panel aims to empower students and attendees to become better advocates for and increase the agency of Black individuals in receiving health care services.

Race, Place, and Chronic Disease: Addressing the Roots of Health Inequities

Feb. 25, 2 p.m.

A conversation with Brian D. Smedley, Ph.D., chief of psychology in the public interest and acting chief diversity officer of the American Psychological Association, on addressing health inequities. Smedley is a national thought leader in the field of health equity. At the American Psychological Association, he leads the organization’s efforts to apply the science and practice of psychology to the fundamental problems of human welfare and social justice.

Systemic racism, medical mistrust and the COVID-19 vaccine

Feb. 26, noon

This panel will discuss the pandemic and social distrust in medicine as it pertains to the COVID-19 vaccination, and will explore how we build trust within our communities. Featuring Marcelle Davis, D.S.L., director of diversity, equity and inclusion for VCU Health System; Sheryl Garland, chief of health equity at VCU Health; Scott Burnette, CEO of Community Memorial Hospital; and Elias Neujahr, CEO of Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU. 

Browse more Black History Month events, including student events organized through the VCU campus groups website (login required) and public community events hosted by the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and Richmond Public Libraries, on the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs’ Black History Month event page.

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