By Brook Stallings.
Black Student Union President Robin Bailey wants to know if you know who invented the traffic light. If you don’t, you will soon have the opportunity to find out.
The Black Student Union (BSU) received $12,000 to fund Black History Month events from the Associated Student Government at last Tuesday’s meeting in a close vote. The series of events, already in progress, include four nationally-known speakers, a potluck dinner and dance, and a “Black History Final Jeopardy” contest.
The question is on the qualifying quiz for the Jeopardy contest, to be held on Feb. 23. No one at the meeting knew the answer, which appears later in the article.
Board members questioned the size of the request. However, BSU members and faculty argued successfully that the excellence of the speakers and the educational value of the events to all BCC students justified the high cost.
Bailey said the events were intended to be fun. “What better way, than to teach by having fun?” she said. The Jeopardy event is intended to get groups from around the campus involved, with a trivia contest that allows winners to compete in the main event.
The potluck dance will feature 3 eras of music – Harlem rhythms , Motown, and hip-hop, and will have a professional DJ.
The speakers at the event sparked the most discussion in the meeting. When asked if $3000 for speakers was too much, Bailey said, “not for these speakers.” Sociology department chair Sara Lynn-Sutter said these were “hard hitting, famous global citizens.”
The speakers will be hip-hop artists and political activists Mohammed Bilal and Boots Riley, Washington State Representative Eric Pettigrew, and Dr. Tricia Rose from Brown University, who is a top scholar on hip-hop culture and politics. Bailey said that these were the top speakers they could find in their fields. Sociology instructor Denise Johnson said that $20,000 was a typical honorarium for any one of these speakers. The Black Student Union will get all four speakers for $3000 dollars.
While discussing the value of the event to students, Bailey said to look at black history globally. The world looks at how we treat black history and black inclusion, and judges us by it. “[If] we can teach the community college about black history, then we have an impact on the world, because what we learn, we take out into the community,” she said.
Lynn-Sutter said that this is the first college she has taught at where students have had to shoulder the burden of putting on a black history month. She wants the college to be a part of the planning and funding for the event, and considers it unusual that it isn’t.
ASG President Amanda Alva agreed, saying that funding for Black History Month should come from BCC, not the students. However, she said, if students pay for a large program such as Black History Month, it puts pressure on the college to help fund the program. “When the college doesn’t participate, and doesn’t support it, shame on them,” she said.
Much of the board’s discussion and questions centered around who should pay for the event, and how much should be funded.
Asssistant Dean of Student Programs Faisal Jaswal expressed concern that BSU’s proposed budget had no room for unexpected expenses. Baily said that the group will go to other groups on campus and ask for financial help.
Alva asked who they had asked for help. Robin replied that the Office of Equity and Pluralism, Multi-Cultural Services, the Office of Instruction, and Student Services had agreed to help out as needed. Multi-Cultural Services has already agreed to contribute money. Department heads are also being asked to help.
Several board members made the suggestion that the ASG partially fund Black History Month, by funding half the request or by funding one speaker and asking BCC to fund the rest.
Lynn-Sutter said that without full funding, the event may not happen. This would be a huge mistake, she said, because it would send a negative message about who BCC is and what we stand for.
Representative Burke Colquhoun said that clubs hadn’t been asking for cultural fund money. There is over $21,000 in the cultural fund, which includes money rolled over from last year. The cultural fund is money mandated by ASG bylaws to support events of cultural impact, such as Black History Month.
“We need more cultural clubs to ask for money, […] you’re pretty much the only show I can see right now,” he said to Bailey. He had changed his mind, he said, and would now support the request.
The funding request passed 4-1-1, with Representative Chapman Chung voting against and Representative Yunita Oesman abstaining.
Augustus Morgan received the first US patent for a traffic signal in 1923. His signal was not the first ever made, but it was the direct ancestor of modern traffic control systems. He also used a gas mask of his own invention in 1916 to personally rescue several men trapped in a tunnel under Lake Erie.
By Brook Stallings.