Faculty, students kick off 2019 SIU Black History Month celebration


Isabel Miller | @isabelmillermedia

Pamela Smoot, history assistant professor, dances on stage with the Gentlemen of Vision Monday, Feb. 4, 2019 inside the Student Center Auditorium. The Gentlemen of Vision are St. Louis area high school students and performed a step show during the Black History Month Kickoff event.

By Kallie Cox, Staff Reporter

SIU kicked off Black History Month in the Student Center auditorium with a program which included speeches from Dr. Pamela Smoot and Interim Chancellor John Dunn, as well as a special performance from Gentlemen of Vision, a high school step dancing team based out of St. Louis.

Andrea Hammond, a junior studying physiology and student worker at the Multicultural Center, said SIU’s theme for Black History month this year is Black Migration.

Hammond said this theme emphasizes the movement of people of African descent to destinations and to a new social reality and focuses particularly on the 20th century through today.


Matt Wilson, an SIU alum, began the evening by singing “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” which Hammond said is one of the most cherished songs of the civil rights movement and is often referred to as the black national anthem.

Dunn gave a brief address to the crowd and said it is his goal to make sure all of the students on campus feel welcomed.

“Our role and our responsibility, [has been] to make sure that all of the community [is] welcome and supported on campus,” Dunn said. “At times there has always been a little tension about that, have we done that well? Are we doing it well now? You advise me and counsel me on that but let me assure you that our heart, our goal, is in the right place.”

Dunn said Black History Month is a great opportunity for everyone to appreciate the culture and history of African Americans and while he was glad to see such a large turnout, he believes more white students should have shown up to the event.

“I would say to all the students tonight, […] it was nice to see a large turnout of our African American students,” Dunn said after the event. “But hey, [there] should be also a turnout for our white students [to] just be supportive and be part of the community.”

Smoot presented on black migration for the majority of the event and discussed the historical and cultural significance behind the migration of African Americans to the northern part of the U.S.

Smoot said the main point of her presentation was to highlight the African American community is resilient and has the ability to bounce back from adversity. The goal was also to raise awareness about the struggles those who migrated from the south to north faced, Smoot said. 


“The main point is that this transition from the rural south to the urban north was more like a declaration of independence,” Smoot said.

The evening ended with a performance by high school step dancing group Gentlemen of Vision.

G.O.V’s mission is to prepare disadvantaged males to successfully complete high school through demonstrating superior leadership skills, academic excellence, community service and career readiness in order to successfully transition into higher education or trade, according to the group’s website.

G.O.V was founded in 2009 and its members have a 100% graduation rate, according to the website.

The group followed their performance by teaching audience members, including Smoot and Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Lori Stettler, how to step dance.

Smoot said Black History Month is not just for black people, but it is for all people.

“I think that people should participate; you know you can learn something at every turn,” Smoot said. “You can learn something about all people all the time, so I think that people have to take advantage of the opportunity to participate in these kinds of events.”

Staff reporter Kallie Cox can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @KallieC45439038.

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