Fairmont State University celebrated Black History Month with keynote speaker, ‘wax museum’

As Black History Month came to an end, Fairmont State University held a week long celebration including a keynote speech from Dr. Amena Anderson and a living “wax museum” by the Black Student Union. 

Anderson, Fairmont State alumna and assistant professor of leadership studies at West Virginia University, gave a keynote speech on “Leading and Following for Social Justice: A Higher Education Imperative” after the museum. Her speech was to educate, encourage and empower the students, faculty, staff and community members to continue moving towards social justice. 

“I feel very proud to see thee students all together but also extremely proud of the Student Government Association for their insight, willingness to be a part of this and their vision for this kind of thing,” she said. “I hope that the students work together, we didn’t do such a good job of that when I was a student here and I think the possibilities for this generation are awesome.”

Anderson’s belief is that higher education institutions have a moral responsibility to not only educate but also set an agenda for social justice. 

“It isn’t just the work of our faculty, staff and administrators, but also our students and we need to really empower them with tools of agency to feel like they have a voice and can make a difference in the world,” she said. “So that we can all live in a better place with empathy, justice and inclusiveness. It isn’t just rhetoric that we say, each of us have realms of influence on campus and in the community.” 

Brennah Staunton, president of the Black Student Union, said the speech was encouraging and the week celebrating Black History Month was an important way to educate not only herself, but everyone around her. 

“A lot of us don’t really think much about Black History Month,” Staunton said. “So to have this event just educates ourselves, educates our community and the students around us to celebrate this and recognize this is something to honor, to celebrate – to be a part of black or white.”

Staunton noted how encouraging it was hearing from not only a Fairmont State graduate but a woman like her and all of her successes. 

“It’s encouraging as a black woman to see where she’s gone, and her struggles and how she overcame them,” Staunton said. “It was very motivational.”

Members of the union dressed up as significant historical figures of the black community before the speech. Some of the people portrayed were Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr. and the students were able to share a little bit about their stories. 

“The African-American Wax Expo was really just about our history from slavery to the civil rights movement, and different areas where blacks were involved in the arts,” Staunton said. “It was about the global impact that African-Americans have, and how it affects us to this day.”

A Black History Month Celebration dinner was also held in the dining hall on Thursday with traditional African American food. Staunton said it was just another great way to learn more and engage in conversations. 

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