For the second year in a row, Castleton’s NAACP chapter hosted a Black History Fair, inviting everyone at Castleton to join in the Campus Center to learn about and celebrate Black history.
Last year’s event took place in the walkway outside Fireside – but this year they wanted to upgrade. To do that, the group secured the 1787 Room, filled the tables with informative posters and played music by Black artists over the speakers.
“[Last year] was a pretty big success. We got a lot of faculty involved. So, this year we hoped to make it a bit bigger. We got a dedicated room for it, which was nice,” said junior and member of the club Cale Santee.
On top of that, members drove to Burlington to pick up catering from Harmony’s Kitchen, a local Black-owned restaurant, that consisted of fried chicken sandwiches, corn bread and mac and cheese.
One thing that didn’t change about the event is the intent behind it – to raise awareness, NAACP secretary Shanice Williams said. And to create a space for the CU community to learn about and celebrate Black history.
“Castleton is not the most diverse school, so we just wanted to bring our culture here and just let everyone know what it’s about,” Williams said. “I think it’s important that everyone is educated, and everyone is aware of what is going on. And just to be in touch with the history of this country, I think it enhances the community here and makes it a safe space for everyone.”
The event was just as much for the NAACP members as it was for the community as a whole.
“It’s also celebratory for our club,” said NAACP chapter President Kayon Morgan. “We all said, ‘listen, if nobody shows up, we are still going to be proud of what we did.’”
But people did show up.
In fact, Angela Sillars brought her entire Creative Arts and Expression class. Sophomore Emily Bouchard happened to be one of those students, though she said she likely would have come on her own even if the class didn’t.
“I think that NAACP events in general are usually pretty important to attend. Especially during Black History Month. I just think that it’s a great way to get involved in the campus and also to allow more culture in a campus environment, which happens to exist in a state that really doesn’t have a lot of people of color within it,” Bouchard said.
First-year student Cameron Allembert, also a part of Sillars’ class, found it to be a valuable experience as well.
“I definitely feel like I could learn a lot. Especially from what I have read already – there’s a lot of stuff that I didn’t know,” Allembert said.
And members of the NAACP themselves felt that they learned a lot, too.
Owen Senesac, a sophomore club member, said that he discovered new information from making his own poster board about the Underground Railroad.
“And as I walked around, I learned little bits of history that I just really wasn’t aware of,” Senesac added.
Sophomore Baylee Laforce agreed.
“It definitely taught me that there’s a lot more to [Black history] than just the baseline overview, because there are poster boards about topics I didn’t even think about,” Laforce said.
Even as president of the chapter, Morgan felt that she learned a lot as well – particularly about important Black LGBTQ+ figures and about Henrietta Lacks, whose cells were and still are incredibly important in medicine.
“I, myself, I’m learning. I’m learning and I’m happy about that. I hope whenever people came around and looked at this, they took something from it too,” Morgan said.
After a convocation that the NAACP felt excluded from, Morgan felt especially strongly about having this be a community event. After seeing the turnout and support, she said her “heart is full.”
“I kind of had this image of just community, really. I just wanted an event where we have people walk through, nobody had to stay and sit for a long hours, they could come at their own time, come at their own pace, and learn,” Morgan said.
And in fact, convocation was what inspired sophomore Owen Edgcomb to come out to the history fair.
“I heard Perri [Chiadika] get up there and recite the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, and he prefaced it with this call to action basically,” Edgcomb said. “Perri said ‘we need to do better and I’m calling on the administration and SGA to do better’ … And I think that that’s important. It struck me.”
As a member of CAB and therefore associated with SGA, Edgcomb said that he felt it was “the least [he] could do” to support the NAACP and come to their events.
Griffin Schneider, a first-year student and a member of the club as well, feels that these events are important to campus in that they can help “to bring awareness and help to bring the community together. And also to make people feel more comfortable in a diverse community.”
And that importance is at the heart of this history fair.
“Now more than ever, as we see what happened with Tyre Nichols, it’s important that we celebrate Black history. Not in a way that is glorifying or tokenizing Black people and the work that they’ve done, but as a way to realize that it’s every single person’s history and it’s paved the way for where we are right now,” Morgan said.