• Students rehearse a step dance in preparation for Saturday's African and African-American culture performance. Dancers are (left to right) junior Silvia Baptista, freshmen Yamilee Toussaint and Ashley Vaughn, sophomore Tracey Ragsdale, junior Teri Ijeoma and freshman Douglas Slaughter.

    Students rehearse a step dance in preparation for Saturday's African and African-American culture performance. Dancers are (left to right) junior Silvia Baptista, freshmen Yamilee Toussaint and Ashley Vaughn, sophomore Tracey Ragsdale, junior Teri Ijeoma and freshman Douglas Slaughter.

    Photo / Donna Coveney

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Students put together program for Black history month

Students rehearse a step dance in preparation for Saturday's African and African-American culture performance. Dancers are (left to right) junior Silvia Baptista, freshmen Yamilee Toussaint and Ashley Vaughn, sophomore Tracey Ragsdale, junior Teri Ijeoma and freshman Douglas Slaughter.


"Pulse: One Beat. One World," an African cultural show produced with MIT student leadership, will be held on Saturday, Feb. 19, at 8 p.m. in Kresge Auditorium.

The goal of the evening program is to celebrate African and African-American culture and to honor Black History Month through music, dance, poetry and song.

"Pulse" is hosted by the MIT African Students' Association, the MIT Black Students' Union, the MIT Chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers, and Harvard's Black Student Association. It is free and open to the public.

MIT freshman Alia Whitney-Johnson and a planning committee of eight MIT and two Harvard students organized the multi-media production that will feature speeches, poems, African drumming, hip-hop, jazz, expressive dance and choral and gospel singing.

Whitney-Johnson was inspired to take on a leadership role in "Pulse" by an "awakening" she had when she saw her first African cultural show at her high school, the North Carolina School of Science and Math. "I was one member of a whole audience who left with a new appreciation for how much of our culture is rooted in Africa. I saw that studying black history is studying my history," she said.

Whitney-Johnson's twofold goal was to produce good entertainment and to build community among the "vast number of cultural and minority organizations on campus," she said.

Participating groups and individuals share common goals of unity and fun as they prepare for Saturday night.

"The cultural show provides a great opportunity for our association to showcase different aspects of African culture to the MIT community. It offers the chance for us to strengthen the ties that we have with the rest of the black student community on campus," said Edward Mabonga, president of the African Students' Association and a junior in electrical engineering and computer science.

Nicholas A. Pearce, American Chemical Society scholar and a junior in chemical engineering, will deliver a speech in honor of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., during the "Pulse" performance.

Pearce's hopes for the evening echoed Whitney-Johnson's.

"I hope that all participants will not only take away an increased appreciation of black culture, but also a double determination to make a positive impact on the world in which we live," he said.

Pearce said he has been "motivated and inspired to be an agent of positive change in our present and future world" by the work and writings of King and Pearce's own pastor, Bishop Dr. Arthur M. Brazier, who also participated in the Civil Rights Movement. "Their cautious, yet audacious optimism and faith in the future inspire me to take steps towards realizing that optimism," said Pearce.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on February 16, 2005 (download PDF).


Topics: Special events and guest speakers, Students

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