The University of Michigan-Flint will reflect on the milestones achieved by Black Americans as it observes and celebrates Black History Month. Coordinated by UM-Flint's Division of Student Affairs, Black History Month events will be presented to students, faculty, staff and community members, Feb. 1-28.
"Black History Month at UM-Flint isn't just for our campus constituents, it's for the entire community at large," said David Luke, UM-Flint's chief diversity officer. "It is a gateway into the institution for Flint and surrounding areas. We want community members to join us, celebrate with us, learn and grow together, and engage with us."
In total, there will be more than two dozen events happening throughout February, a month that has been observed as Black History Month in the United States since the 1970s.
The month will be highlighted by keynote speaker, Victor Ray, 5:30-7, Feb. 9, in the University Center's KIVA.
Ray, a native of Pittsburgh, earned a bachelor's degree in urban studies at Vassar College and a PhD in sociology from Duke University. Author of the book, "On Critical Race Theory: Why It Matters and Why You Should Care," Ray's research applies critical race theory to classic sociological questions.
His work has won multiple awards, including the Early Career Award from the American Sociological Association's Section on Racial and Ethnic Minorities, and the Theory Prize from the American Sociological Association's Theory Section.
Ray currently serves as the F. Wendell Miller Associate Professor in the Sociology and Criminology and African American Studies departments at the University of Iowa. He is also a nonresident senior fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution. As an active public scholar, his social and critical commentary has appeared in a variety of media outlets including The Washington Post, Newsweek, Harvard Business Review, and Boston Review.
According to Ray, his most recent book "draws upon the radical thinking of giants such as Ida B. Wells, W.E.B. Du Bois, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., to clearly trace the foundations of critical race theory in the Black intellectual traditions of emancipation and the civil rights movement." From those foundations, Ray explores the many facets of American society that critical race theory interrogates, from deeply embedded structural racism to the historical connection between whiteness and property, ownership, and more.
The book presents, analyzes and breaks down the scholarship and concepts that constitute this "often misconstrued term (of critical race theory)," the author said. Ray explores how the conversation on critical race theory has expanded into the contemporary popular conscience, showing why critical race theory matters and why we should all care.
"In the simplest of terms, his book is basically a handbook basically to describe critical race theory to the curious person," said Luke. "If someone doesn't know or fully understand the controversy surrounding the topic and would like to know more, his book is a wonderful entry point and being able to have him on campus to share and expand on the topic will be equally informative."
According to a 2021 article in Education Week, critical race theory is "an academic concept that is more than 40 years old. The core idea is that race is a social construct, and that racism is not merely the product of individual bias or prejudice, but also something embedded in legal systems and policies."
The article shares that the basic tenets of CRT emerged out of a framework for legal analysis in the late 1970s and early 1980s created by legal scholars Derrick Bell, Kimberlé Crenshaw and Richard Delgado, among others.
Some critics claim that the theory advocates discriminating against white people in order to achieve equity. They mainly aim those accusations at theorists who advocate for policies that explicitly take race into account.
"There are a great many and varied opinions on CRT, and it has clearly become a hot-button topic in education so it seems more than appropriate that our campus and the Flint communities would benefit from an informed conversation around this contentious political issue," said Luke. "And what better place to have a conversation of this nature than a university campus? UM-Flint is exactly the place where we can and should have these discussions – if not the opportunities – to learn about controversial topics. So, let's bring in an expert, engage with him to hear about what he knows, and grapple with this as we're thinking about Black history."
Other highlights of the month include:
- Alvin D. Loving Sr. Week, Feb. 14-17, Times vary, Alvin D. Loving Sr. Cultural Center (UCEN): Loving was the first full-tenured Black professor at any campus of the University of Michigan after being one of the first Black high school teachers in Detroit. He was a founding, and the only Black, member of UM-Flint in 1956. In 1990, UM-Flint named a room in UCEN, the Alvin D. Loving Cultural Center, to honor Loving's legacy. Events for the week include "The History and Legacy of Dr. Loving," Feb. 14; "Research Inspired by Dr. Loving," Feb. 15; "Writing to Honor Dr. Loving," Feb. 16; and "Memories of the Alvin D. Loving Cultural Center," Feb. 17.
- Dine and Dialogue, 4:30-6 p.m., Feb. 16, Intercultural Center (UCEN 115): The purpose of Dine and Dialogue is to provide space for critical conversation about current issues in a more in-depth and structured setting. Topics at the monthly event can be about global events or something closer to home or on the UM-Flint campus. The February event will focus on the meaning of diversity and how the word has been co-opted to mean something that it is not. There will also be reflection on how our values and actions can align with DEI initiatives. Food will be provided at the event.
To view the entire list of UM-Flint's Black History Month events, click here.
Robb King is the director of marketing and communications at UM-Flint. He can be reached at email@example.com.