For nearly half a century, Black Family Week has celebrated the rich cultural history of the African Diaspora community. This year’s 45th annual Black Family Week, which will take place from February 2-13, will include a wide variety of events that all students, regardless of their community, are welcome and encouraged to attend.
If you like to dance, there’s the Step N Stroll event, where you can learn about the history of Stepping and try out a few moves yourself. If you like to sing, you can express yourself at the Soul Speaks open mic. If you’re a film buff, there are a number of film screenings being held.
Black Family Week co-coordinator, second-year international relations major, Danielle Soba, stressed that while planning for the 12 days of programming, she and her co-coordinator wanted to include as many black organizations as possible.
“We tried to fit it into one week but I didn’t want to have six programs a day,” Soba said. “So [we] thought it would be better to spread it out over 12 days. It kind of goes with our theme of Blackness Without Boundaries too,” Soba joked.
But joking aside, Soba feels this is a powerful and important theme because it shows that her community will not be defined by stereotypical representations of what it means to be black.
“People would define black as a certain thing and it would be like ‘you’re not black enough because you don’t do this,’” Soba said. “[This theme] really resonates with me because it means I can be who I want without boundaries.”
Two events in particular from the Black Family Week focus on the importance of artistic expression. Step N Stroll will teach participants about the history of stepping, a form of dance in which the body and surrounding environment is used as an instrument of music. Soul Speaks, one of the most popular events of this week, is a night where individuals and organizations inside and outside of the African Diaspora community are given the opportunity to express themselves.
Kathleen Hinkson, a second-year Environmental Policy Analysis and Planning major and one of the coordinators of Soul Speaks, promises a fun night of singing, dancing, stepping, rapping and spoken word.
“I’ve had a chance to talk to each of the participants and they are so passionate about their performances,” Hinkson said. “I can’t thank them enough for being willing to share [their experiences] with us.”
This attitude of sharing and celebrating both differences and similarities is part of what makes a program like Black Family Week crucial for the UC Davis campus.
“Programs like BFW help students in our community feel welcomed,” Hinkson said. “There’s a low percentage of black people on campus so Soul Speaks is a way for us to see other people that look like us.”
De’Von Walker, a fourth-year sociology major and one of the organizers of the Step N Stroll event, also mentioned the importance of events like this to help students who do identify as part of the African Diaspora community feel more welcomed.
“[We have] a very rich history of using musical expression to get through the most oppressive of times,” Walker said. “Today, we are still fighting oppression [so] it is important for us to understand how our ancestors got through their obstacles.”
Walker also feels that learning about the history of stepping will emphasize the “Blackness Without Boundaries” theme.
“Understanding and learning how to step connects us to our ancestors that used the same art form. This helps to demonstrate that even the boundary of time can be broken,” Walker said.
Though much time has passed since the first Black Family Week at Davis, this year’s Black Family Week coordinators will strive to retain rich cultural ties to the past while still introducing new and exciting programming and to present a blackness that is different from stereotypical media representations, a blackness without boundaries.
To learn more about Black Family Week, check out the Facebook event page.
Courtesy photo by Black Family Week