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‘BLACK ESSENCE’: UWEC to Hold Black History Month Finale Event on Feb. 28

inspired by Black history on campus, event will showcase local Black artists

Sawyer Hoff |

CELEBRATING BLACKNESS. The Black Essence event at the university was inspired by the voices and work by
CELEBRATING BLACKNESS. The Black Essence event at UW-Eau Claire on Feb. 28 is inspired by the voices and work of the UWEC Afro-American Association back in 1968-69. (Submitted photos)

During the 1968-69 academic year at UW-Eau Claire, The Spectator student newspaper published columns by the UWEC Afro-American Association that shared their thoughts and experiences in a primarily white city and university. This series was called “Black Essence” and is the inspiration behind the university’s upcoming Black History Month celebration.

The Black Essence event will be 5-9pm Tuesday, Feb. 28, at the Ojibwe Grand Ballroom in Davies Center and will showcase various art forms produced by local Black creatives, including spoken-word artists Diamond Forde and Nabila Lovelace, musical performances by Uncommon Denominator and DJ Moses of Irie Sol, and an exhibit from the Black Student Coalition at North High School. The event is open to the whole community, with tickets running $20 for community members and $10 for students.

An example of a Black Essence column from The Spectator
An example of a Black Essence column from The Spectator in October of 1968.

Anthony Wallace, the student services coordinator in the Multicultural Student Services Center at UWEC, said that for this year’s Black History Month festivities, the event planners wanted to move away from the usual formal event and create something that had more of a focus on art.

When researching past events, Wallace discovered that in November 1968 there were large demonstrations across the Wisconsin State University system that resulted in hundreds of Black students being arrested, suspended, and expelled after their demands to university administrators were not met and conflicts arose. In response to these events, the Afro-American Association at UWEC, led by Vice President Edythe Sherrel, organized the very first Black Culture Week with the support of a campus task force created by WSU-EC President Leonard Haas in February 1969.

Unfortunately, these efforts were hindered when the governor insisted that the Board of Regents raise out-of-state tuition, thus making it harder for Black students from the Chicago area to enroll.

“This narrative and the existence of the Afro-American Association was a gift to stumble upon,” Wallace said. “As an alum and person of color, I’ve noticed an unfortunate insistence at public institutions to limit representation of Blackness to national figures – whether they be athletes, entertainers, artists, or politicians – tragically neglecting to showcase how passionately communities of color sought to live in predominantly white spaces over time.”

The Black Essence event will be the last of a series of Black History Month events the Multicultural Student Services will put on at the university, and will be a fantastic way to learn about and experience art from many talented Black artists in the area. It will also offer a glimpse into UWEC’s history and its impact on Black students.

To learn more about this event and to purchase tickets, you can go to