Several students noticed IU hasn’t done a good job of celebrating Black History Month this year, particularly at the Indiana Memorial Union.
The IMU sees a constant influx of students, faculty, visitors and staff every day. It also has a bookstore where people, particularly students, can go buy books, school supplies, IU apparel, and rent and return books.
Aside from the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center events and Office of the Vice Provost of Diversity, Equity, and Multicultural Affairs, there hasn’t been a wide range of celebrations or promotions throughout campus.
Ramatou Soumare, IU’s NAACP president and member of the Black Presidents cabinet, said she felt the bookstore’s lack of a Black Authors section made her feel as if she wasn’t welcome.
Before Black History Month began, IU students like Soumare realized there was a lack of books by Black authors at the bookstore. However, they thought there would be more books on display to celebrate Black authors during this month.
Unfortunately, this has not been the case.
Soumore didn’t initially go to the IMU to visit the bookstore, but since it’s Black History Month, she thought she would go and see if she could purchase some books by Black authors. Her visit left her disappointed.
“When I asked the person at the desk if there was a Black authors section he immediately started stuttering like he was shocked,” Soumare said.
She said he directed her to look around as he went to find someone who she assumed was his supervisor for further direction. When the supervisor arrived, she pointed to random African-American studies books in the history section which made Soumare feel uneasy.
“It’s not just about history—there’s so much more Black authors have to offer than just the trauma we’re used to,” said Soumare.
Making sure there is a Black authors section in the bookstore during Black History Month is the least IU can do to make students feel welcomed.
A university claiming to be intentional about diversity and inclusion should want to make its marginalized students feel welcomed on campus during a month that is meant to celebrate their history.
“They claim that they’re a diverse school and if you’re claiming you’re a diverse school then you should start doing activities, promoting, and making opportunities for non-black people and people of color to learn,” IU junior Diamond Blevins said.
Blevins continued to talk about the importance of having a Black history section. She explained having a Black history section would show there are so much more beautiful stories than the stereotypical images we see every day.
“We are always exposed to different types of books by white authors with white characters,” Blevins said. “But we don’t really get to see different genre books that show Black people in a different light.”
Black students and other students of color already have a hard time finding places on a predominantly white campus to make them feel welcomed.
IU has a duty to its marginalized students to make them feel like they are a part of the community and the university. It’s also the university’s responsibility to ensure that marginalized students feel seen and heard.