The February calendar at Kenyon is filled with events commemorating Black History Month. Film screenings and the keynote address by Zen Buddhist priest Rev. angel Kyodo williams Sensei occurred earlier this week. Readings, a panel discussion on race in the classroom, a lecture on James Baldwin and a vigil for Trayvon Martin and other victims of racial violence will take place in the latter half of this month. We worry that apathy will lead our predominantly white student body to discard this opportunity to attend and learn from this programming.
We are concerned because we have already seen this happen. On Jan. 21, Northwestern University Professor of History Leslie M. Harris delivered the keynote address for the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Dialogue to a half-empty Rosse Hall. After the keynote ended, Harris remained on stage to join three members of the Kenyon community for a panel, but many in the audience filed out before the panel participants could even introduce themselves.
If attendance is so sparse and attention spans apparently so slim on a day when the College adjusts its schedule solely for event, can we expect any better for Black History Month events that do not enjoy the same privilege? Will the students who did not show up to Rosse, who decided they had better things to do with the free time handed to them, now take the time to attend this month’s events? Even with relatively high attendance at Rev. williams’ talk, we worry that the overall turnout will be marred by apathy.
The Black Student Union, the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and the many other organizations involved in this year’s Black History Month programming are doing this campus and this community a service — a service that the students involved are not paid to provide. They are making the effort to educate and enrich this campus. The rest of the student body ought to make the effort to appreciate it by showing support for these events.
The staff editorial is written weekly by editors-in-chief Cameron Messinides ’19 and Devon Musgrave-Johnson ’19, managing editor Grant Miner ’19 and executive director Matt Mandel ’19. You can contact them at email@example.com, musgravejohnsond @kenyon.edu, firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com, respectively.