Students call for Gutmann's recognition of Black History Month
February 26, 2010, 6:48 am·
There are various events on campus going on for Black History Month, but the University does not officially recognize the celebration — a fact that didn’t sit well with School of Social Policy and Practice student Matt Graber.
A petition asking for University recognition of the month will be delivered to Penn President Amy Gutmann Friday.
The letter — written by Graber and signed by students, faculty and staff — also “demands” that a panel consisting of Gutmann, faculty and University and Philadelphia community leaders convene to “discuss the history of interactions between the communities of the University of Pennsylvania and Philadelphia.”
The idea for the letter was born after Graber was left dissatisfied after attending a panel on race relations during Martin Luther King, Jr. week in January.
After contacting one of the panelists, Graber realized that there were various events going on for Black History Month at Penn — but no official University-wide recognition of the month.
SP2 professor Walter Palmer advised Graber to enlist the support of student groups on campus in order to get more signatures for the petition.
“I champion students who are there to raise questions and challenge the status quo,” Palmer said.
“I also champion those students who take the counterpoint … I think dialogue is wonderful,” he added.
Various SP2 students involved have e-mailed at least 300 campus groups, according to SP2 student Pita Lacenski, who is also involved in circulating the petition.
In addition to the proposed University recognition and panel, Lacenski also feels that Penn can do more to ensure all students are aware of the histories of different races.
“I’ve been very impressed with the exposure that I’ve had to black history in my education at SP2 and because I think it’s so valuable, I would like to see it on a larger scale throughout the whole University,” Lacenski said.
It would be valuable for all Penn students to have more exposure to black culture and the black experience, she added.
Other students agreed that Penn could do more to highlight black history.
“As a major educational institution in Philadelphia, Penn has a responsibility to recognize the historical and current contributions of African Americans at the school and also the long and vibrant history and presence of the African American community in Philadelphia,” SP2 student Anna Murphy said.
Graber echoed the same sentiments.
“Black history is our history, and to recognize black history is to recognize our own history,” he said.