Voices of Simmons

From the President: Celebrating Black History Month

For me, Black History Month has always been about learning and discovery. Each February, I make it a goal to learn something new about some aspect of Black art, culture, and history. Growing up, Black History Month was a time when I discovered the stories and writings of many Black leaders that continue to inspire me today. This includes individuals such as the sociologist and activist W.E.B. Du Bois and Mary Jane McLeod Bethune, who opened one of the first schools for African American girls and became an influential Black educator and civil rights leader.

This year, I am proud to mark Black History Month as Simmons University President. I am so grateful to have the opportunity to learn more about the many students, faculty, and staff from our institution who have made lasting contributions to our communities, our nation, and the world. Simmons’ first Black student, Lydia Brown, carved a legacy and set a strong example of what is possible for future generations. She graduated from Simmons in 1915 and later worked as a translator in World I, a public-school teacher, and also as a delegate and translator of French, German, and Spanish for the Pan-African Congress in Paris, London, and Brussels.

Lydia Brown’s leadership and service are hallmarks of the Simmons graduate. Reading her story and those of other remarkable individuals whose talent, passion, and determination have advanced fields and enhanced our world is something I am especially drawn to in 2021.

This past year has been one of the most difficult periods in recent history, and it is both an affirming and an empowering reminder to read about those who have inspired entire communities, states, and nations with their actions – even and especially during challenging times – such as the Civil Rights and Black Lives Matter movements. It prompts me to think about what actions, creativity, and movements we might see in our post-pandemic lives.

This month, I hope our community will join the Multicultural Center in celebrating Black History Month, and exploring programming related to Black excellence, music, social justice, belonging and multi-layered perspectives. I encourage you not only to participate, but to carry this knowledge and these perspectives with you into the future. The principles of Black History Month must be lived daily if we are to effectively elevate issues of equity and racial and social justice during this pivotal moment. And continuing to learn and broaden our perspectives is vital as we work to achieve our ambitious goal of becoming one of the most inclusive campuses in New England – a community that not only welcomes, but that truly promotes and empowers, all our different dimensions of diversity.

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