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“Sankofa! Social Activism”: Black History Month Celebration at Stony Brook

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Accomplished Alumni Franck D. Joseph II (’12), Former Chief of Staff and Senior Advisor for Queens Borough President and Michelle Mbekeani, Esq. (’11), Policy Advisor, Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office to Serve as Keynote Speakers

Stony Brook, NY–January 26, 2022–The Stony Brook University community will celebrate Black History Month (BHM), honoring African-American experiences and accomplishments. This year’s theme: “Sankofa! Social Activism” will be incorporated into the month-long tribute. Events will be conducted in a hybrid fashion: in-person and virtually via Zoom with online events open to the public (registration requested).

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Franck D. Joseph II (’12)

“Sankofa! Social Activism” seeks to increase awareness about the historical legacy of the African American experience in the struggle for equality, inclusion, and social change. Two alumni will speak to the Stony Brook community during the opening and closing BHM Ceremonies; Former Chief of Staff and Senior Advisor to the Office of the Queens Borough President, Franck D. Joseph II (’12), will serve as Keynote Speaker for the Opening Ceremony; and Michelle Mbekeani, Esq. (’11), Policy Advisor, Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office (Chicago, IL) will serve as Keynote Speaker for the Closing Ceremony. Both of these graduates have been named Stony Brook “40 Under Forty” honorees.

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Michelle Mbekeani, Esq. (’11)

“We celebrate this long-standing tradition at Stony Brook University and recognize this is a pivotal time in America’s history,” said Dr. Judith Brown Clarke, Vice President for Equity & Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer. “We seek to commemorate the invaluable contributions of African Americans and provide the opportunity to hear our own alumni Franck Joseph II and Michelle Mbekeani demonstrate their leadership and vision to our students and the community overall.”

The concept of Sankofa has its origin in Ghana, West Africa. When translated, it means that “it is not taboo to go back and fetch what you forgot.” Sankofa is used throughout the pan-African world to promote the idea that African people must go back to their roots in order to move forward. The theme was created to re-ignite awareness, appreciation, passion, and commitment to BHM for all people, but especially those whose ancestors are from the African Diaspora.


Throughout BHM, Stony Brook University will feature cultural, artistic and historical community events including:

    • Stony Brook University welcomes back MJ Sanders for a special menu which includes Feijoada (Brazilian Black Bean Stew), Sautéed Kale, Chili Rubbed Pork Rib, Citrus Salad, and Lemon Scented Herb Rice. Chef Mavis-Jay Sanders attended the Culinary Institute of America after receiving a BS in Hotel and Restaurant Management from Georgia Southern University. MJ became part owner of the award-winning food truck Pico House in Los Angeles and then moved back to NYC to advocate for food justice in black and low-income communities as the Director of Operations for the Brownsville Community Culinary Center. In 2019, she was honored as a New York Rising Star Chef. She has also been a featured chef of New York’s Queer Soup Night.
    • Founded in 1994 with a singular approach to reinventing dance through a groundbreaking mix of methods, styles and cultures, Complexions represents one of the most recognized, diverse, inclusive, and respected performing arts brands in the World. Having presented an entirely new and exciting vision of human movement on 5-continents, over 20-countries, to millions, they are poised to continue their mission to bring unity to the world one dance at a time. This program includes a collection of company favorites, and also features LOVE ROCKS, set to the music of Lenny Kravitz.
  • Thursday, February 17, 7-9pm, ET: Black History Month Open Mike, Spoken Word Contest (Virtual Event and Viewing in the Union Ballroom)

    • The Black History Month Open Mike, Spoken Word Contest is an opportunity for SBU students to showcase their gifts and intellect through spoken word and diverse modes of expression. Performers will present their work virtually and live during the contest. This program will be virtual. It also can be viewed in-person in the Union Ballroom.

  • Thursday, February 24, 3pm, ET: Ferguson Rises – (Virtual Screening and Discussion)
    • Join the Center for Changing Systems of Power for a virtual screening and discussion of the award-winning film FFerguson Rises, the story of Michael Brown, Sr., as he seeks justice after a white police officer kills his son in Ferguson. Following the film, join our live discussion featuring: Michael Brown, Sr.;  Mobolaji Olambiwonnu; and Zebulon V. Miletsky, Associate Professor, Department of Africana Studies. Can be seen via Zoom –
  • Thursday, February 24, 6-8pm Black History Month Closing Ceremony (Virtual Event)

    • This will be an online event featuring a virtual address given by keynote speaker Michelle Mbekeani, Esq. (’11), Policy Advisor, Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office (Chicago, IL). Check back here to register. The program will also feature a variety of cultural performances by Stony Brook University students.

Black History Month activities at Stony Brook University are coordinated by the Office of Multicultural Affairs, Department of Africana Studies and the Black History Month Committee.

Media Contact: Joan Behan-Duncan, Stony Brook Media Relations, 631 901-4005

About Stony Brook University

Stony Brook University, widely regarded as a SUNY flagship, is going far beyond the expectations of today’s public universities. With more than 27,000 students, 2,800 faculty members, over 200,000 alumni, an academic medical center and 18 NCAA Division I athletic programs, it is one of only four University Center campuses in the State University of New York (SUNY) system. The University embraces its mission to provide comprehensive undergraduate, graduate, and professional education of the highest quality, and has been ranked among the top 35 public universities in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Fostering a commitment to academic research and intellectual endeavors, Stony Brook’s membership in the Association of American Universities (AAU) places it among the top 65 research institutions in North America. The University’s distinguished faculty have earned esteemed awards such as the Nobel Prize, Pulitzer Prize, Indianapolis Prize for animal conservation, Abel Prize and the inaugural Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics. Part of the management team of Brookhaven National Laboratory of the U.S. Department of Energy, Stony Brook is one of only eight universities that has a role in running a national laboratory. Providing economic growth for neighboring communities and the wider geographic region, the University totals an impressive $7.23 billion in increased economic output on Long Island. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter (@stonybrooku).

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