Highlights Include an Appearance by Ibtihaj Muhammad, an African-American Woman and the First Female Muslim-American to Earn Medal at the Olympics
FLUSHING, NY, February 2, 2017—An appearance by Olympic medalist will be among a wide- ranging series of events as Queens College celebrates Black History Month 2017. An African American woman from New Jersey, Ms. Muhammad made headlines last summer in Brazil as the first American to compete in the Olympics wearing a hijab. She earned the bronze medal as part of Team USA in the Team Sabre event, becoming the first female Muslim-American athlete to earn a medal at the Olympics.
In keeping with a theme suggested by a word from the Akan people of Ghana, Sankofa: Celebrating the Past, Building a Boundless Future, the college will play host to speakers, film screenings, artistic performances, and more. These include a consideration of the legacy of President Barack Obama; a reexamination of the activism of Angela Davis; accounts from Queens College students who visited important sites in the struggle for civil rights; examinations of America’s history of slavery, its abolition, and suggestions that elements of it are perpetuated today by the mass incarceration of black males in the so-called prison industrial complex. There will also be an appearance by Dr. Richard Lapchick, a human rights activist, pioneer for racial equality, and internationally recognized expert on sports issues, who will speak out on the issue of human trafficking.
The month-long celebration begins Thursday, February 2, with a reception and screening of the 1993 film Sankofa, which centers on the Atlantic slave trade. It will conclude Tuesday, February 28, with a screening of the 2015 film Selma, based on the 1965 Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, voting rights marches of Dr. Martin Luther King, John Lewis, and other icons of the Civil Rights Movement.
An event schedule can be found here. For background on events and guest speakers, please click here. All events are free and open to the public.
Queens College has long played a role in the struggle of African Americans for equal rights. In May 1965 Dr. Martin Luther King was the first speaker in the college’s John F. Kennedy Memorial Lecture Series, highlighting the power of peaceful resistance in his remarks. “Nonviolence,” Dr. King said, “is the most potent weapon available to oppressed people in their struggle for freedom and human dignity.” A year earlier, Queens College student Andrew Goodman was murdered along with James Chaney and Michael Schwerner during the Freedom Summer voter registration project in Mississippi. The college’s Rosenthal Library clock tower is named for the three civil rights workers. In past years the college has honored civil rights pioneers such as Aaron Henry, who received the Queens College Medal in 1990, and John Lewis, who received an honorary degree in 2009.
Several prominent African Americans have graduated from Queens College, including Queens Borough President Helen Marshall, New York Assemblywoman Barbara Clark, New York Urban League Chairman Noel Hankin, Vice Chairman of the CUNY Board of Trustees Philip A. Berry, and Olympic medalist Gail Marquis.