The end of February brought Black History Month to a close, but celebrations of Black joy and excellence won't stop on Mercer's campus.
Originally celebrated as Negro History Week in 1926, it blossomed and gained recognition by governments worldwide. Black History Month was created to acknowledge and celebrate the contributions of Black people to the United States.
Black history is seldom highlighted in a positive manner, making the existence of celebrations like this monumental. For many of the Black students on Mercer’s campus, February served as a celebration of joy and acceptance.
“To me, Black History Month is a time when Black students can celebrate and be proud of who they are," Atia Bailey ‘24 said. "It’s a time when people pay attention to what we say and the impact of our history, especially as students of color at a historically white university."
Mercer is a predominantly white institution — 44% of the current student body is white. This can sometimes make finding a community as a person of color at Mercer difficult. Finding networks and building a community are integral parts of existing as a person of color in predominantly white spaces, making it integral to curate spaces in the form of clubs and organizations.
Black History Month also serves as a month to highlight and support the Black student-led clubs and organizations on campus such as the African Student Association, The Organization of Black Students, The Caribbean Student Association and the National Society of Black Engineers. These organizations work to allow Black students' voices to be lifted up in spaces they would not normally have. They also work to provide Black students with a community of like-minded individuals with shared cultural backgrounds, beliefs and experiences.
“I feel that Mercer does have a real community amongst Black students," Jaiden Sipe ‘25 says. "Our community is always there for each other, no matter how busy everyone is or how well they know you."
The annual celebration of Black History Month at Mercer is pivotal to the Black students on campus. It provides them the opportunity to highlight their history and tell their stories. It spotlights Black organizations and communities located on campus and brings the Black communities at Mercer together to celebrate themselves.
Most importantly, the month reminds the Black community that they belong here — not just at Mercer but in this world. As the world continues to become harder to navigate at times, celebrations like this can work to encourage the Black community to keep going.