By Amber Kennedy

Throughout February, Old Dominion University will offer events reflecting on African American culture and heritage as the campus community marks Black History Month.

Events will explore a wide range of topics related to the Black experience, including empowerment, social justice in sports, the politicization of Black hair, police interactions, mental health, colorism, equity in health care and more. Celebrations of Black culture and community include screenings of recent films "Respect" and "King Richard" along with "River Stories," a self-reflective workshop providing a creative way to build community through shared stories of Blackness.

The month will kick off with "The Ball is in Our Court: Athletes Take Charge in Expressing Social Justice in Sports," from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Feb. 1 in the Big Blue Room at at the Ted Constant Convocation Center. ODU coaches will participate in a panel discussion exploring how sports can offer a platform for expressions of social justice. RSVP here.

On Feb. 21, the University will host a panel discussion called "Empowering Black Females: Building and Sustaining Bridges for Success," organized by Melvina Sumter, associate professor in the Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice and director of ODU's Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity. The program is designed to provide Black female students and others with an opportunity "to see and hear examples of success, leadership, achievement and sisterhood from highly successful women and trailblazing 'sheroes' who mirror their image," Sumter said.

The panel will include opening remarks by President Brian O. Hemphill, Ph.D., and Mona Danner, chair of the Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice, will moderate. Panelists include:

  • Yvonne Allmond, executive vice president and community financial engagement officer for TowneBank and secretary of the ODU Board of Visitors.
  • Asha Ralph, assistant professor and program coordinator, social work, sociology and justice studies at Shaw University.
  • Toykea Jones, ODU alumna '03, '05, senior manager of commercial operations at Johnson & Johnson and vice rector of the ODU Board of Visitors.
  • Lydia Pettis Patton, executive manager for The Berkley Group, LLC and retired city manager of Portsmouth.
  • September Sanderlin, vice president for human resources at ODU.
  • Ingrid Whitaker, associate professor in the Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice.

The panel will be from 5:30 to 7 p.m. in the Hampton/Newport News Room in the Webb University Center, and can also be viewed through Zoom.

The month's events will culminate with the University's 37th annual event honoring the memory and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 28. The virtual event will feature keynote speaker Barry C. Black, chaplain of the United States Senate, along with remarks from President Hemphill, the presentation of the Hugo Owens Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Award and guest performances.

Other events marking Black History Month include:

  • River Stories, 6 to 8 p.m. Feb. 3 in the James Lynnhaven Room of Webb University Center: An interactive, self-reflective workshop providing a creative way to build community by sharing stories and histories of Blackness.
  • Black History Movie Night, 8 to 10 p.m. Feb. 4, Online: Virtual attendees will watch Kevin Hart's "Guide to Black History" and participate in an interactive discussion following the screening. Participants must have their own Netflix login. RSVP here.
  • Personifying Resistance Through Theatre, noon to 1:30 p.m. Feb. 8, University Theatre Room 1002: Following a viewing of Assistant Professor Brittney Harris's film "Pedigree," attendees will engage in an interactive discussion exploring strategies to address the mental strain of balancing everyday life against racial equality and social injustice issues.
  • Crown Act: The Political History of Hair, noon to 1:30 p.m. Feb. 8, Cape Charles Room (second floor), Webb Center: A presentation and discussion on the history of the politicization of Black hair in America and the present-day impact on Black women's access to economic and workplace opportunities. Light hors d'oeuvres and refreshments will be served.
  • "Respect," 6 to 8:30 p.m. Feb. 8, Godwin Building, Room 102: Following the rise of Aretha Franklin's career from a child singing in her father's church choir to international superstardom, "Respect" is the remarkable true story of the music icon's journey to find her voice.
  • Mental Health Talk: Healthy Relationships in the Black Community, 7 to 10 p.m. Feb. 15, North Café, Webb University Center: Join a discussion on healthy relationships and how to recognize signs of an unhealthy relationship and its effects on mental health.
  • Colorism and the Black Diaspora in Latinx Culture, 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. Feb. 17, Office of Intercultural Relations, 1200 Webb University Center: A presentation of a short documentary about the Black Diaspora and discussion of the effects of colorism in Latinx culture.
  • OIR Family Basketball Game Night, 6 to 8 p.m. Feb. 17, Chartway Arena: A family section will be reserved for students, faculty and alumni at ODU's women's basketball game vs. Marshall. Refreshments will be served. RSVP here.
  • "King Richard," 6 to 8:30 p.m. Feb. 18, Godwin Building, Room 102: A screening of the 2021 biopic about Richard Williams, who coached his daughters, Venus and Serena Williams, to tennis superstardom.
  • CommUNITY Conversation: Making Equity Visible in Health Care of African Americans, noon to 1:30 p.m. Feb. 23, virtual event: Participants will examine the impact of marginalization and a lack of cultural competence on the health care of African Americans within their community. This event is presented by the President's Task Force for Inclusive Excellence, American Red Cross and Eastern Virginia Medical School. RSVP here.
  • Eating Disorders in the Black Community, 5 to 7 p.m. Feb. 23, Virginia Beach/Portsmouth Room in Webb University Center: A presentation followed by a Q&A on eating disorders, with a focus on the Black/African American community, specifically exploring the mental health and medical fields. Heavy hors d'oeuvres and light refreshments served.
  • Community and Police Interactions, noon to 1:30 p.m. Feb. 24, Hampton/Newport News Room, Webb University Center: ODU Police will host an interactive student session that includes a presentation on traffic stop do's and don'ts and other community interactions. RSVP here.
  • Black History Month Global Café, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Feb. 25 in Broderick Dining Commons: Engage with the Black student community and enjoy African cuisine.

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