Black History Month underscores SIU’s commitment to students of color

We here at SIU have been celebrating Black History Month. Continuing throughout February, the celebration includes numerous events across campus and community highlighting the experience of African Americans. This year’s theme is “African Americans in Times of War.”

For those of you who missed the kick-off event earlier this month, take some time to watch the video. Dr. Wesley McNeese’s presentation is particularly moving.

McNeese, who served as an Air Force Morse intercept operator in Vietnam and is now an emergency physician, presented an overview of African American participation in the military conflicts of the U.S.

It is enlightening to hear how, despite being integral to the strategy and success of many military campaigns, black soldiers were often marginalized, degraded and overlooked.

We encourage everyone on campus to attend as many of these events as possible. Even for our African American students, these events offer a new perspective and understanding of the black experience globally and in the U.S.

SIU is committed to inclusivity and diversity

While this month is an important reminder of the many contributions of African Americans to U.S. History, we cannot let our commitment to our black students lag once March rolls around.

At SIU, we have the highest population of black students of any institution of higher education in the state, many who come from disadvantaged backgrounds. More than 15 percent of our student population is black.

Part of our mission and core values as an institution is to embrace diversity and inclusivity for all students. As part of that mission, we are proud to support the work of the Student Multicultural Resource Center to assist students from every background and ensure that students never feel hindered or excluded because of their cultural heritage.

Black Resource Center helps students of color succeed

The SMRC has programs for students from a range of traditionally underrepresented and disadvantaged groups, including women, Hispanic and Latino students, and LGBTQ students. However, in honor of Black History Month, we would like to highlight the work of the SMRC’s Black Resource Center.

The Black Resource Center provides assistance with academic support, cultural competency, personal development, and social and professional skills. The Center also offers scholarships to outstanding students of color.

In addition, the center takes its mission a step further with its Emergency Tuition Fund. This limited fund, run entirely from donations, helps students continue their studies during times of personal upheaval. Four students so far have been able to stay in school thanks to this remarkable fund.

Sisters Interacting Successfully empowers women of color

Many of the challenges faced by African Americans are compounded for women of color, but the Black Resource Center’s Sisters Interacting Successfully helps black women overcome those obstacles by promoting positive social skills, increasing self-worth and embodying the spirit of “Lifting as We Climb.”

The program creates opportunities for mentoring, networking and advocacy for students through cultural events, guest speakers, workshops and more. It is a shining example of what Salukis can accomplish when they work together and support each other.

Looking forward to a bright future

These programs help our students of color achieve their highest potential and move on to become leaders nationwide. We couldn’t be more proud of the work the SMRC does every day.

A special thank you to Todd Bryson, director, and Lanel Love, assistant director. Your hard work, dedication and passion help our students to excel.

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