Each year during Black History Month, Sankofa, the HWS Black Student Union, hosts a campus-wide event called Harlem Nights. In addition this year Sankofa presented an entire week of celebrations called S.O.U.L., which stands for “Stories of Untold Lives.” The purpose of S.O.U.L Week is to commemorate all those who fought tirelessly to ensure the freedom and equal opportunity of all black lives, by highlighting the black experience through an array of events.
S.O.U.L Week consisted of events ranging from “Harlem Nights: Boogie Down Edition” to a viewing and discussion of the award-winning biographic drama “Fruitvale Station.”
“African American culture is American culture,” says Danzlear Johnson ’19, a member of Sankofa’s Ujima, or junior board, who helped organize the events. “African American culture is often times neglected within mainstream American culture. S.O.U.L. Week is about harnessing the particular energy that exists within various different forms of African American arts.”
Sankofa selected hip-hop culture to pair with its main event, “Harlem Nights,” which has become a staple of the annual celebration. The event derives its name from the 1920s Harlem. The “Boogie Down” edition of Harlem Nights was organized by Sankofa’s Ujima. The event featured hip-hop themed performances by student poets and musicians.
“Hip-hop is now a global culture,” Johnson says. “It means a lot to me because it promotes both literacy and creativity.”
In light of S.O.U.L. Week, Niame Traore ’18, a program coordinator of Sankofa’s executive board, says Black History Month can be used as a platform to educate and share knowledge and culture of the African Diaspora. She says in American society this culture can sometimes be omitted from discussions.
“It is essential that we have events like Harlem Nights on campus because it allows the community to better understand our history and why it is so important to black lives,” Traore says.