Black History Month in East Lansing offers opportunities for community engagement

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East Lansing is offering community events and recognition to celebrate and reflect on the history of Black Americans throughout February’s Black History Month.

“The City of East Lansing acknowledges the significance of Black History Month as an important opportunity to commemorate the tremendous contributions of Black Americans to the history of East Lansing and the United States and recognizes the importance of Black History Month as an opportunity to reflect on the complex history of the nation,” according to a resolution recognizing Black History Month from the East Lansing City Council.

The resolution was approved unanimously by the council on Feb. 6, with remarks from City Councilmember Dana Watson.

Watson noted some important events in East Lansing’s Black history.

“The draft that was proposed didn’t speak to our own history in East Lansing, which I am proudly a part of as a Black woman, being the first elected Black woman and third elected Black person ever to serve on council,” she said.

Watson also noted that former Mayor Ron Bacon was the first Black mayor of East Lansing.

“We are making history here in the city of East Lansing, on and around everything else that Black people have contributed to,” she said.

Watson said she is happy to be in the midst of Black History Month, and encouraged members of the community to take part in events around the city, specifically at the East Lansing Public Library (ELPL).

The library, located at 950 Abbot Road, offers book recommendations on their website which focus on their 2024 Black History Month theme of “African Americans and the Arts.”

The library also has a calendar with discussion panels, movies and art projects planned throughout the month that are open to the public to celebrate.

“We really want to promote inclusivity and diversity, and make a large population of the people who visit the library feel welcome and acknowledged,” said ELPL Teen Services Specialist Rheanna Reeder.

Reeder said the library is offering a community art project, where patrons can create quilt squares to contribute to a quilted display in the library. The display pays tribute to the Underground Railroad, when people used quilt patterns and symbols as communication tools while helping Black Americans escape slavery.

The library is also collaborating with the East Lansing High School Black Student Union to collect afro-textured hair products as part of their natural hair-care drive. There is a drop box located in the teen section of the library.

“We get anywhere from 40 to 80 teens here some days,” she said. “A lot of the students from the Black Student Union and especially their president right now come here after school and they brought up the idea to us.”

The Black History Month celebrations are spread city wide, with Michigan State holding the 24th annual William G. Anderson Lecture Series, a jazz concert, and an exhibit titled “Resistance Training: Arts, Sports and Civil Rights” at the MSU Broad Art Museum.

“This exhibit explores the shared values between artists and athletes advancing social justice-related issues,” said the MSU Today calendar of events for Black History Month.

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