Photos by: Monika Stroz
With a committee of esteemed PCCC faculty and the Office of Student Activities (OSA) starting it up, the Black History Month Opening Ceremony was held on Thursday, February 7th. For the first time at PCCC, men and women from all denominations came together to celebrate the start of February, and the reopening of a painful but powerful time in America’s past.
Professor James Sanders, who was awarded a Certificate of Appreciate at the event, commended OSA’s work behind the scenes leading up to the event. “We all played a role in being able to organize this, but I have to give a lot of credit to OSA,” Sanders asserted, “OSA orchestrated the whole idea. They came to us and…gave us an idea what they wanted to be able to do…from there we would come and add our little (flair).”
With an event like this bringing so much from the community together, not only is the environment affected, but each student’s experience was altered for the better as well. Student engagement, especially at a community college which lacks the dorm culture, is significant. “That plays a big role in the college experience overall,” Sanders muses. With that in mind, it is no wonder, OSA saw this opportunity to build fellowship through food and a live museum.
There were several people who presented on the histories of a few African-American people from New Jersey. Amongst them, Leen Abaza, 19, Biomedical Engineering major, spoke about William Still, a former slave pivotal in the Underground Railroad. “After he became free, he still risked his own life to help Harriet Tubman and thirteen other slaves escape (through) the main routes underground…if it wasn’t for him, a lot of slaves wouldn’t have been able to escape and become free like him,” Abaza declared.
There was high value in the education gained by all. Abaza and Steadman were happy to learn about various people of history; it was both of their first times researching about the people they presented on. “I didn’t know anything about (Still) or many other figures actually…it was a great opportunity for us to learn and educate too,”Abaza says with a smile.
There were students with many interests and backgrounds at the event who enjoyed the live museum.“Some of them are art majors, some of them criminal justice majors, some of them even play for our sports teams,” Professor Sanders observed,”but they actually learned about people that they might not have been too familiar with…that’s a good thing about today.” With African-American, Middle Eastern, European, Latin American, and Caribbean people contributing to and participating in the event, the ceremony’s luncheon began and ended in high and hopeful spirits.
One of the most powerful ways to inspire is through example. Both Abaza and Steadman were Student Government Association senators and continue to contribute to OSA, which reveals other unique ways divisions of OSA made this event possible. Overall, the MCing by Francisco Martinez, the generous dishes provided to all the guests, the lively jazz music, and many other ingredients made PCCC’s first Black History Month Opening Ceremony a grand success. According to Professor Sanders, “They (OSA) actually took it upon themselves to think outside of the box, and it worked to a tee!”