Black Legacy Month 2023 Celebrates Black Joy

News subtitle

Organizers say events embrace joy and fellowship as an act of Black resistance.

Black Joy logo

The theme for Dartmouth’s Black Legacy Month this year is “Black joy,” highlighted with events including the opening celebration today, a Black brunch featuring a fashion show, a Black hair care event, and a keynote talk by actor DeWanda Wise.

The Feb. 2 opening ceremony, featuring food from Maple Street Catering, a raffle, music, performances, and presentations from a range of Black Student organizations, starts at 6 p.m. at Collis Common Ground. A complete list of all the Black Legacy Month events is offered by the Office of Pluralism and Leadership.

“I see joy as most synonymous with resistance,” says Laura Logan ’22, co-chair of the student organizing committee. She says to acknowledge the tragic events of the last few weeks the opening ceremony will have a moment of silence in remembrance of Tyre Nichols and the victims of multiple mass shootings last month, but that the theme of Black joy is all-the-more important.

“This will be very much a celebration,” Logan says. “I feel that this underscores how important events like this are and how radical it can be to choose happiness and to choose joy and to be really committed to celebrating Blackness even though you recognize that, unfortunately, we’re in a country where that Blackness can make us a target for violence.”

Co-chair Sarrah-Ann Allen ’23, agreed.

“For example, we’re doing a Black joy video, and it’s been a discovery process for me, because I realized that Black joy means so many different things to so many different people in the community,” Allen says.

“And something that stuck out for me from these reflections was this idea of Black joy being something that can’t be taken away, and there is strength in something that can’t be taken away, and so we wanted to elevate that.”

It was also an affirmative choice at Dartmouth, dating back to 2016, to emphasize “Black legacy,” rather than “Black history,” as the month is officially known, co-chair Rawan Hashim ’26 says.

The word history speaks to something in the past that is over and that we look back on to find inspiration, while legacy speaks to a story that continues today, and that flows into the future as the legacy we are creating for those who come after, she says.

Throughout the month, all the events, fellowship gatherings, meals, performances, and art are organized and produced by Black students at Dartmouth, including a Black Queer Joy wellness workshop at Triangle House on Feb. 8, a pop-up art exhibit showcasing African fashions at the Hood Museum of Art on Feb. 16, and a talent show starting at 7 p.m. on Feb. 17 at Collis One Wheelock.

The closing keynote address by Wise, on the theme of Black joy in the media, will be held at 6 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 27, in Cook Auditorium. Recent star turns by Wise include roles in Jurassic World Dominion and Spike Lee’s Netflix series She’s Gotta Have It.

Zantasia Johnson, program coordinator for community and leadership development at OPAL, assisted with planning for this year’s slate of events. She says Allen, Hashim, and Logan and the other 14 members of the Black Legacy Month planning committee have done an outstanding job.

“The students really planned all of the events and I’m just there to support them,” Johnson says. “They talk to the full community. Last fall they held a town hall with all of our student leaders, to come up with events students want to see.”

“And the co-chairs this year have really stepped up to make sure this month is a great month because this is the first time having it fully in person after emerging from the restrictions of the pandemic.” 

Organizations supporting this year’s Black Legacy Month include the Office of Pluralism and Leadership; The Special Programming and Events Committee; Tuck School of Business; Academic Skills Center; the Department of African and African American Studies; Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc.; Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.–Xi Lambda Chapter; Black Caucus; Black Girls Are Magic; Black Praxis; Black Underground Theater and Arts Association; Center for Professional Development; Dartmouth African Student Association; Dartmouth Alliance for Children of Color; Dartmouth Black Student Athlete Association; Dartmouth Conferences and Special Events; Dartmouth Center for the Advancement of Learning; Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc.– Pi Theta Chapter.

Also, the Department of Government; Department of Philosophy; Division of Student Affairs; the Division of Institutional Diversity and Equity; Leslie Center for the Humanities; Men of Color Alliance; Morning Glory; National Association for the Advancement of Colored People; North Park House; National Society of Black Engineers; Shabazz Living Learning Community; South House; Soyeya African Dance Troupe; Student Wellness Center; the Hood Museum of Art; and the Tucker Center for Ethical and Spiritual Life.

Bill Platt