Pitt groups celebrate Black History and Women’s History Months

By Gretchen Andersen

With February ending and March about to begin, three Pitt organizations joined forces to… With February ending and March about to begin, three Pitt organizations joined forces to celebrate Black History Month and Women’s History Month.

“You don’t know where you are going until you know where you came from,” said Gina Roussos, president of Campus Women’s Organization.

Her remark reflected the theme of Tuesday night’s lecture, “Historical Women of the African Diaspora,” held in the William Pitt Union by CWO, the Black Action Society and the African Students Organization.

About 25 students attended the 30-minute presentation, which touched on the accomplishments of several women of African descent. The group mentioned historical women such as Henrietta Lacks, Flo Kennedy, Audre Lorde and Ntozake Shange.

“Women of color have had even more so difficult historically, and to see such accomplishments makes me feel inadequate,” said Julie Anne Evans, a member of CWO. “You need to know who has contributed to history, especially the accomplishments of minorities.”

Darah Patterson, who presented a few slides, is the BlackLine Magazine Chair Co-Editor and a member of the Black Action Society. She discussed the importance of recognizing the often overlooked role of women in history.

“We felt women were greatly marginalized in history, and this was a good jump into Women’s History Month,” Patterson said.

The presentation named a number of women from Pitt who’ve made important contributions to both history and the present, such as the late Wangari Maathai, the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize winner and a 1966 Master of Science graduate of Pitt. Maathai was the first female from East and Central Africa to earn a doctorate. She founded the Green Belt Movement, an organization focused on environmental conservation and community development.

Another important woman from Pitt was Shona Sharif, a senior lecturer and advisor in the Department of Africana Studies at Pitt. She served on the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts’ Dance Advisory Panel from 1993 through 1995. Sharif taught African-American health issues and African-American, African and Caribbean dance classes at Pitt.

The lecture’s attendees also discussed Flo Kennedy. Kennedy was a U.S. civil rights attorney, political activist and radical feminist. She was one of the founders of the National Organization for Women and founded the Feminist Party, launching Shirley Chisholm’s failed candidacy for president of the United States.

The presentation also featured women outside of the United States, such as Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the 24th president of Liberia and the first elected female head of state in Africa. Johnson Sirleaf received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011. She also earned the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2007.

Efe M. Oghoghome, community outreach co-chair of CWO, acknowledged the importance of Black History Month as it comes to an end.

“It’s important to celebrate Black History Month because black history is inextricably linked to American history. We need to honor the legacy and their contributions. It’s American history, we need to talk about it like we do Asian history and women’s history,” she said.