With the start of Black History Month this February, we asked Global UGRAD participants to reflect on their experiences learning about African American history and culture while in the United States. Check out a sampling of these reflections below:
Worawit Dumklang, Thailand, Maryville College
On January 20th, 2020, I attended a silent march as a part of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day celebration.
Last year, during this time in Thailand, I learned about what Dr. King did for civil rights with my American professor, Mr. David Shectman (English Language Fellow). I saw an inequality happening to African Americans at that time, and I felt very sorry for them. In that class, I also watched the speech clip “I Have a Dream.” delivered by Dr. King in Washington, D.C. It was very touching and motivating.
This year, with the Global UGRAD Program, I could not believe that I would get an opportunity to shout out for Dr. King in the U.S. When I received the news that the Campus Ministry in Maryville College offered a ride for students who wanted to join the march, I did not hesitate to take part in that. On that day, I participated in the MLK march with the people from Alcoa and Maryville in Blount County. We marched for almost two hours from the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center to the Clayton Center for the Arts in Maryville College for the afternoon program as a part of the MLK celebration day. I felt very happy that I could do something with the community for equality and against racism.
Santiago Quirós Solís, Costa Rica, University of Southern Indiana
During this time that I have been in the United States, I had the opportunity to visit the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC. This experience taught me more about the influence and history of the black people in the United States. It is heartbreaking to see how black people were treat decades ago. However, it is so inspiring how one community got together and fought for their rights.
Besides this, on January 20th I had the opportunity to attend to the Martin Luther King, Jr. ceremony at my university. It was amazing. I saw all people with different cultures and beliefs celebrating together. Through this Global UGRAD experience I have realized how important diversity is.
On Saturday, February 1st, other students from different many countries and I engaged in the “Nigerian Cultural Immersion Event”. The university hosted and organized this cultural event along with the NYSC (National Youths Service Corps) as a commemoration of Black History Month. I volunteered for the event and assisted in the setup and facilitation of it. We had a memorable time learning about Nigerians´ History and culture by participating in plenty of activities that made us submerge into their world.
Gurami Jajanidze, Georgia, Presbyterian College
On the 20th of January at Presbyterian College, a convocation dedicated to Martin Luther King, Jr. took place. The idea of the event was to support the idea of equality and recall the merit of those who made their best in terms of fighting for the justice. During the convocation several students delivered speeches in which they expressed their visions of the type of justice Martin Luther King was fighting for. There were some impressive music performances, while the culmination of the event was a speech delivered by Rev. Dr. Diane Moffett who emphasized the necessity of building the Kingdom portrayed by God as the house of mercy and justice for everyone regardless their physical or ethnic characteristics, that instead of being Christians in a formal way people should think about how they can contribute in establishing justice in order to prove their loyalty to the moral principles they claim to possess. And even more was told about what it means to be on the side of justice, that it is not just about having the idea that you support equality and fairness, but moreover it’s all about manifestly expressing it, fighting for it openly, giving your share of contribution on behalf of justice through the way of spreading your voice. As Martin Luther King, Jr. demonstrates, in the end people will not remember the enemies which fought against them, but the friends who kept silent, which means that the fight shouldn’t be led by only the ones who at suppressed, but also the ones who have ambition of being called just humans.
Julio Lopez Soza, Nicaragua, University of Arkansas
On Saturday, February 1st, 2020, other students from different many countries and I engaged in the “Nigerian Cultural Immersion Event”. The university hosted and organized this cultural event along with the NYSC (National Youths Service Corps) as a commemoration of Black History Month. I volunteered for the event and assisted in the setup and facilitation of it. We had a memorable time learning about Nigerians’ history and culture by participating in plenty of activities that made us submerge into their world.
First, we had theater presentations. In it, we learned how to sing the National Anthem of Nigeria and there were some artistic performances from Nigerians. They acted out a dramatic scene and got the people laughing for a while. Then, we moved to a bigger room and there we all danced to the tune of chants and songs. That made us burn lots of calories and of course, was really fun. Later on, we went on a “camp war” and played a lot of active games such as “pulling the rope”, “rolling the wheels”, and “carrying the sacks”. It was very competitive, and nobody wanted to lose!
In addition, all the volunteers simulated a parade and marched to the tune of the “military drums” as a representation of the Nigerian Army. Finally, we had food and a lecture on Nigerians cultural practices and language. Every one of us enjoyed every single moment, became aware of Nigerian culture and its importance for diversity, and made a lot of new African American friends. At the end, we were rewarded with a certificate for volunteering and contributing to the event. It was absolutely amazing.