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Marshall University's Student Newspaper

The Parthenon

Marshall University's Student Newspaper

The Parthenon

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Black History Month Kickoff Centers Around Art

The+keynote+speaker%2C+Laurie+Goux%2C+presented+on+dancer+and+activist+Katherine+Dunham.
Abigail Cutlip
The keynote speaker, Laurie Goux, presented on dancer and activist Katherine Dunham.

Black History Month is all about acknowledging one’s identity and background, said the keynote speaker at the 2024 Dr. Carter G. Woodson Lyceum Black History Month kickoff event.

“It’s about knowing yourself and honoring your history and using that to move forward in the future to make things better,” said Laurie Goux, director of diversity, equity and inclusion at West Virginia Wesleyan College. 

The Woodson Lyceum, in conjunction with the John Deaver Drinko Academy, the School of Art and Design and the W. Page Pitt School of Journalism and Mass Communications, began Black history celebrations Thursday, Feb. 1, at the Visual Arts Center in Huntington.

The event invited students, faculty and community members to view various art pieces and speakers, as well as the unveiling of the Black History Month Poster Contest winners.

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Goux spoke about her mentor, Katherine Dunham, at the event. The late dancer and choreographer founded her own dance company and school while also incorporating Black culture into her pieces and advocating for the Black community.

Goux said that Dunham was determined in both dance and activism. She also showcased the different techniques and teachings of Dunham, inviting those in attendance to engage in a breathing exercise.

With Goux, artist Pepe Dadon performed some of his music. He said that the opportunity to share his art with the world means everything.

“As an artist, you have the duty to send a message to the world, and, if you’re not doing it, then you’re failing yourself,” Dadon said. “We’re here in an art gallery, but the pieces behind the whole event are more meaningful than what they look.”

Dadon went on to say that Black History Month, to him, means noticing the details- a notion that aligns with this year’s theme, “Black Contributions in American Life and History.”

“Things that we use from day to day are being used, and people are not acknowledging that Black inventors put this in place or a Black creator put it in place,” he said. “To me, it’s more so about paying attention to the details of the influence of the Black community.”

In addition, Huntington Mayor Steve Williams gave remarks and read the 2024 Black History Month Proclamation, naming Feb. 1 a day to honor Woodson.

“If we’re going to understand us as a community, we must understand the Black experience,” Williams said. “We must embrace diversity, equity and inclusion.”

Following Williams, the 2024 Black History Month Poster Contest winners were named. The awards were based on theme representation, personal statement and impact.

Recipients from the K-12 division, as well as special mentions, were recognized. In addition to the posters featured in the center’s exhibit, alumna Chandreonia Harris and student Morgan Napier won the merit award, with student Alex Vance winning the competition. 

Napier said creating art that celebrates Black culture requires research and humility.

“It is such an honor to just be able to create art that uplifts and inspires other people,” Napier said. “[It] pays tribute to the artist and their work.”

The university’s Black History Month celebrations will continue throughout the month of February. A full list of events can be found at www.marshall.edu/blackhistorymonth/.

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