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May 8, 2017

Africana Expo kicks off Black History Month

By: Gisel Saillant

Photos courtesy of Gisel Saillant


With the jokes made about Black History Month being the shortest month of the year, the days in February are used to measure the equality between racial groups in the U.S. Last week, UMass seized the opportunity to make every day count by kicking off Black History Month with the “Africana Expo” in the Campus Center concourse on Monday, Feb. 2.


I wanted to comment on this particular event and how I have experienced black history. The “Africana Expo,” was an expression of the inclusive properties Black History Month has obtained, with “black” constituting a universal experience. On the concourse you could connect the shores of where the movement of the African Diaspora has reached. Registered Student Organizations like the African Student Union and the Black Student Union consider themselves part of the movement.


As I was browsing around each display board, I got a word from Banzi Pires, one of the event organizers, as drum players were setting up their instruments. I smiled and mentioned to him how I came prepared because I wore my “good” jeans. When those drums started playing, I said, “Finally, UMass is alive!”


Some people wished they brought their earplugs with them to the safety of the Blue Wall. I bumped into Banzi while I made my rounds and noticed how attentive he was to the crowd passing by. He pointed out to me the sour expressions some of the passers-by had to the drums playing. This was fascinating to me, as some acted completely indifferent to the drums being played. They didn’t even flinch to a beat.


Others felt their shoulders tense up as the sound made them cringe. Most notably, two elderly women had conveniently placed their hands over the ears to block the sound completely. No offense was taken on my part, because these expressions solidified the experience between myself and the people that recognize this instrument as a foundation to their culture and identity.


Gisel Saillant can be reached at

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