Photo by Lawrence Nzuve
By Lawrence Nzuve, Kaylyn Ahrenstein and Zach Knecht
Staff Writer and Contributing Writers
The Black History Month Closing Ceremony brought Stony Brook University a night full of culture and unity, along with sending a message of hope and resilience in the wake of challenges of racial discrimination. The ceremony, which was held last Wednesday and hosted by Office of Multicultural Affairs, featured appearances from Stony Brook alum and current New York Giants tight end Will Tye and Yusef Salaam, a motivational speaker best known for being wrongly convicted in the 1989 Central Park jogger case.
The theme of the event was “Together We Will Rise,” and along with celebrating black history and culture, featured performances from the Stony Brook Gospel Choir, Cadence Step Team and Le’ Afrique, a Pan-African dance team. Three poets and artists were also honored for their performances at the previous night’s Black Lives Matter Spoken Word/Open Mic event.
For many students, the event had a social impact beyond just being a celebration.
“With what is happening in the world like the Black Lives Matter movement and everything which is going on, I feel that people are realizing that we need to support each other,” said Christina Onuorah, a dancer with the Le’ Afrique dance team. “Just to come together at events like this and unite as one body because we are one body, I see nothing but bright days for the future.”
Tye was honored in front of his fellow Seawolves for his achievements on the field, which included three touchdowns as the first Stony Brook player to suit up for a regular season game. Tye said he appreciated the effort that went into the event and noted how crucial events like it were to promoting diversity at Stony Brook. “Together we will rise,” Tye said. “And together, everything we do matters.”
Keynote speaker Yusef Salaam ended the night by telling his story of struggles as well as how he was able to overcome them. Once his sentence was overturned and Salaam was found innocent, he took what had happened to him and turned it into a lesson of perseverance that he now shares with others. “What I found out through my journey is that all the people that am speaking to, all the young people even to the youngest people that I see in the room, I might be looking at the next President of the United States,” Salaam said. “There will be some in-betweens but imagine if we gave that kind of spotlight to the young people to be the change that they seek. There would be no stopping us.”
Associate Dean for Multicultural Affairs, Cheryl Chambers, says she thinks that this year’s Black History Month celebrations were ones for the books. “This year’s program month has been incredible. It has far exceeded past Black History Month programs here at Stony Brook and I never thought that this could happen at the level that it has,” Chambers said. “This month has particularly given rise to greatness beyond anything that the university has ever seen.”