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Black History Month Celebration Kicks Off with Opening Ceremony, Feb. 2

Franck joseph

22010857 black history month 2022 graphic rev small 4 2The Stony Brook University community will honor African American experiences and accomplishments with its annual Black History Month (BHM) celebration. This year’s theme — “Sankofa! Social Activism” — will be incorporated into the month-long tribute. Events will be held in a hybrid fashion: in-person and virtually via Zoom with online events open to the public.

“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 address the opening and closing BHM ceremonies. Franck D. Joseph II ’12, former chief of staff and senior advisor to the Office of the Queens Borough President, will serve as keynote speaker for the opening ceremony, and Michelle Mbekeani, Esq. ’11, policy advisor, Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office in Chicago, IL, will serve as keynote speaker for the closing ceremony. Both of these graduates have been named Stony Brook “40 Under Forty” honorees.

“We celebrate this long-standing tradition at Stony Brook University and recognize this is a pivotal time in America’s history,” said 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, the University will feature cultural, artistic and historical community events including:

Wednesday, February 2, 1 pm
Black History Month Opening Ceremony
Register here for this virtual event that features keynote speaker Franck D. Joseph II ‘12, former chief of staff & senior advisor for Queens Borough President Donovan Richards.

Saturday, February 5, 8 pm
Complexions Contemporary Ballet at Staller Center
The renowned New York City-based dance company performs “Woke” and “Love Rocks” in one full-length program to celebrate Black History Month. Tickets are on sale; for more information call (631) 632-ARTS.

Thursday, February 17, 7 pm
Black History Month Open Mic and Spoken Word Contest
Students will showcase their gifts and intellect through spoken word and diverse modes of expression. The contest will be live in the SAC Auditorium, or it can be viewed virtually.

Thursday, February 24, 6 pm
Black History Month Closing Ceremony
This in-person event in the Union Ballroom includes a virtual address by Michelle Mbekeani, Esq. ’11 and a variety of student cultural performances. Mbekeani was named to Forbes’ 30 Under 30 for Law & Policy, and drafted and lobbied for statewide legislation that created the nation’s first polling station inside a jail and requires police officers to undergo youth-specific training.

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