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A Month of Recognition

Door knobs, door stops, folding chairs, locks, hair brushes, the traffic light, and lotions and soaps all have one thing in common – they all were all invented by black people.

“Inventions are all throughout our life,” said Lorriane Reeves, assistant director for orientation and chairwoman for the the Black Emphasis month committee. “A lot of blacks have invented things that people are not aware of.”

And the theme for this year’s Black Emphasis Month celebration, “A People of Honor … The Untold Story,” during the month of February, it brings attention to blacks who have contributed throughout history.

“Their stories still need to be told, so people don’t forget them,” she said. “We want to educate everyone, not just the African-American students.”

The month long events kick off Thursday at 11 a.m. in the Martin Luther King Plaza. “The Untold Story” is a mixture of ideas that came from students and faculty on the committee, Reeves said.

During the month of February, there will be a range of events held. Inventions created by black people will be on display during the kick off.

Reeves said the main event, “Story Song: A Musical History,” will be the highlight of the month. It will be held on Feb. 5., which is early for the main highlight, she said, but was the only time the performers had the opportunity to come to USF.

“Story Song” is a musical history of black people in the modern world. A news release describes the piece as a “dramatic retelling of African-American history that will be interwoven with sounds from behind and beyond the midnight veil of Blackness.” The musical will showcase four performers who graduated from Harvard. They are Derrick Ashong, Jonathan Mark Gramling, James Shelton and Sheldon Reid.

Reeves said the committee originally wanted Carl Brashear, who was the first black deep-sea diver in the Navy, to come and speak toward the end of the event. But he doesn’t want to fly, Reeves said, due to the Sept. 11 attacks.

Regardless of the change in plans, Reeves said she thinks the “Story Song” will still provide a good view of African-Americans in history.

“Hopefully, they will reach the college age and educate about the story of African-Americans,” she said.

Reeves said that Black Emphasis Month was allocated $4,000 for planning this year.

“The university step up a bit and help with additional funds, which comes from Community Relations,” she said. “Also different student organizations are helping us out as well.”

The Campus Activities Board is one of the major co-sponsors for the event, Reeves said, and without its funding the event would not have “Story Song.” CAB is doing most of the promoting for the events, which helps the committee, along with paying $5,000 for one event, the Black Comedy Tour. CAB is co-sponsoring one other event, as well, which is the Movies On The Lawn presentation of The Brothers.

Keri Kiefer, a staff member for CAB, said Black Emphasis Month provides diversity.

“It allows us to add cultural programs to our traditional programs, like Movies On The Lawn,” Kiefer said.

Kiefer said it is important to have diversity when co-sponsoring a program because it will encourage more students to attend.”There are two parts working together and two minds are better than one,” Kiefer said.

Reeves said despite the low allocations for a budget that totals approximately $6,000, the committee was able to do everything that they planned to have a respectable month.

“Because we have that support, we were able to do everything, but we still have to spend our budget wisely,” she said. “Working with the MLK celebration this year was also a plus because we work together with the money.”

Karla Stevenson, promotion director for CAB, said co-sponsoring creates a bond between the groups.

“Co-sponsoring gives the audience more of a variety and diverse event to choose from,” Stevenson said.

Stevenson said she thinks the attendance will be strong because of the co-sponsoring.

“The Black Student Union is also helping out, and we are a couple of the strongest organizations on campus,” Stevenson said. “We are very happy to be working with them.”

Reeves said she hopes that this year’s Black Emphasis Month events will help people realize how blacks were involved throughout history.

“There are millions of stories that have made up history that no one knows about,” Reeves said.