Black Legacy Month 2021 at Tufts
A Q&A with the Africana Center staff
Q: What does Black Legacy Month refer to at the Africana Center at Tufts?
Montez Paschall, associate director: At the Africana Center, we mean Black Legacy Month to celebrate the full range of Blackness throughout history and into the present. It does not represent a diminishment of what Black History Month is. Instead, Black Legacy Month recognizes the impact that Black history is continuing to have. Black Legacy Month acknowledges what has been handed down ancestrally and its impact on work that is under way and on policies that are taking shape today.
Q: What are the origins of the use of the term Black Legacy Month at Tufts?
Katrina Moore, director: Part of the answer lies in our preparation for this year’s symposium in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the theme for which we knew would have a focus on his legacy.
But the importance of Black legacy has longstanding roots in the transitions and programs of the Africana Center. Whether as part of our work with our first-year students in our SQUAD [Students' Quest for Unity in the African Diaspora] program or with participants in our 36-year old peer leadership program, we always include a session on legacy. As part of that, we take students to the Alumni Tree on campus and discuss with them the significance of the Africana Center on our campus as well as the legacy of Tufts alumni who continue to give back to the university.
Our goal is to instill in our students the importance of the center as well as the role played by our alumni, on whose shoulders our students stand. Though this may be the first year in which we are incorporating it into our February events, legacy is something about which we’ve been talking with our students for many years.
Montez Paschall: There has been a lot of work done on campus, especially by Black alumni. So, for current students, it’s important to acknowledge where we come from and what has been contributed to create the environment for today’s students. And it’s important to remember that there’s a lot of work still to be done.
Q: Why is the concept of legacy particularly important in 2021?
Katrina Moore: The Class of 2024 has come into a Tufts unlike one that anyone has ever experienced before. So, it’s very important to us to share with them this context, about the value, the benefit, and the significance of the Africana Center.
Q: And how does the theme of legacy translate to your Black Legacy Month programming?
Montez Paschall: We have focused on issues that have been brought up throughout history—including at Tufts—and have considered what is the best way to revisit these issues this year. We also wanted to consider questions like: Who is on campus now? What is the footprint they’re standing in? And contrasting with that, what is the footprint they hope to leave?
Some of our programs that derive from these questions are ones in which we connect current students to past students, or current students to current professionals who are either at Tufts or who have come through Tufts. Our goal is to help our students understand how they can navigate the Tufts environment. The pandemic presents a brand-new environment for all of us, but especially for our students. What does it mean to meet all your classmates through a digital screen? What does that mean for our students’ understanding of legacy?
There are a lot of students who haven’t yet had the chance to come to the Africana Center and experience what that rich culture can mean for them. So, our hope is that we can create conversation spaces through this month’s activities that, while they won’t be the full-fledged experience, will at least allow them to hear the words of people who’ve come through Tufts. We hope this will give our students inspiration for persisting and creating their niche in this virtual space.
We do not want our first-year students to go through the entire year and not really know anyone and to miss out on any of that wisdom that might ordinarily get shared, say, across a table at Dewick. This is the virtual continuation of what we always try to do at the Africana Center.
Q: What else would you like to share with the Tufts community about legacy, defined broadly?
Montez Paschall: This is just the start of our conversation. The concept of legacy is not limited to discussion in just one month of the year; it’s year-round. While this coming month will focus on certain concepts and conversations, the theme—and importance—of Black legacy is one that remains with us.
Katrina Moore: It's also my hope that this focus will also build interest in and curiosity about the Africana Center so that when we do get to be open again, our students will be really eager to come and check us out.
Irene Mutwiri, graduate intern: It’s also important to note that the Africana Center is focused on both undergraduate and graduate students. We are working to develop programming that is both impactful and intentional for all Jumbos across departments and programs. One thing to keep in mind: It’s tempting to look outside for resources and speakers while forgetting that there is a wealth of “homegrown” talent and expertise right here at Tufts! Alumni as well as faculty and staff have a lot of insight to offer to students and to one another. I look forward to tapping into the full breadth of the Tufts community to co-create inclusive spaces for learning through storytelling, mentorship, and professional development.
Katrina Moore: Our strong relationship with the Black Alumni Association affords us the opportunity to connect with alumni who attended Fletcher... or UEP... or the School of Medicine... and to be able to match them with graduate students for professional benefit. This is yet another way in which we think about legacy as it pertains to our students, and the mission of the Africana Center.
To see how members of the Tufts Alumni community have answered the question, “In celebration of Black Legacy Month, whom do you honor?” please view their contributions.
Interested in getting involved? Alumni of all schools of Tufts are warmly encouraged to connect with the Africana Center to learn more about our programs. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to get connected. And alumni who would like to support the Africana Center are encouraged to consider a gift to the center.
Interested in getting involved in the Tufts Black Alumni Association? Please email email@example.com to get connected.