Iona Celebrates Black History Month

As we join to celebrate Black History Month at Iona, our goal is to help promote cultural understanding and raise awareness about cross-cultural issues. We hope you enjoy the acknowledgements, resources and campus events celebrating Black achievement in our campus community and beyond!

A Message from Alison Munsch, Ph.D.

Interim Associate Provost for DEIB 

This month we celebrate Black History Month, an annual celebration of the achievements by Black Americans. Black History Month is a time for recognizing the significant role of Black Americans in United States history. The event grew out of “Negro History Week,” the brainchild of noted historian Carter G. Woodson (the second Black man to earn a Ph.D. in history from Harvard University), and other prominent Black Americans.

Carter G. Woodson wanted all Americans, regardless of their race or ethnicity, to recognize the valuable historical contributions of Black people in this country. He also wanted to help boost the morale of Black Americans, who were facing rampant discrimination and political disenfranchisement, while living under the horrors of racial violence and segregation, especially in the early 1900s.

Every U.S. president has officially designated the month of February as Black History Month since 1976.  Black History Month provides a crucial opportunity for all Americans to reflect on the historical contributions of Black Americans. A lack of awareness in the public’s knowledge of the Black past has significant consequences. The careful study of the Black past provides a blueprint for Americans and members of our campus community to better understand, among other things, the dynamics of race, the history of race relations, and the lasting impact of racism. Such awareness can be instructive for the future. The following graphic illustrates the history of Black Americans in the United States where despite the challenging circumstances, Black Americans continue to survive, strive and thrive.

Celebrating Iona Excellence

Advocacy & Leadership  
Samantha Francois ’24 isn’t someone who waits around for others to take the lead. She knows what she wants in life, and she’s not afraid to take the steps needed to get there. She said being a leader is about consistently showing up and pushing ahead through the discomfort, knowing that at Iona, someone will always be ready to support and guide you forward. “My message to incoming freshman students is to go for what you want,” she said. “Don’t wait for your friend to do things. Be independent. Someone is always going to be waiting to welcome you and direct you in the right way.” That’s how Samantha got involved with SLAM, or Student Leader Alliance for Multiculturalism. Now in her junior year, she is serving as chair and advocating for diverse issues across campus.

Read Samantha's story

Passion & Perseverance
When Hall of Fame Coach Rick Pitino calls you out of the blue, it makes you reconsider what you thought your next steps on the path of life would be. That’s what happened to Berrick JeanLouis ’22, who was playing hoops at Florida Southwestern State College at the time and now is an all-star Gael wearing No. 0. The path to success hasn’t always been easy, though, especially having to persevere through a pandemic. Frequent quarantines. Uncertain game schedules. No fans in the crowd. It was not how he envisioned his college experience. But it brought him even closer to his teammates and fellow Gaels. “It’s going to be a crazy story to tell your kids someday,” he said. “When we had our first home game back and it was packed, it was like, 'Woah!' It felt great. We feed off the crowd a lot. We need them. When they’re cheering us on, it’s like, 'Ok, let’s go!'"

Read Berrick's story

Persistence Pays Off 
Landing a good job, let alone your dream job, may seem intimidating. Tiara Griffith ’20, however, cracked the code. “Going into college, I knew that if I wanted to be successful, I had to step outside of my comfort zone,” she said. “As uncomfortable as it was, it was necessary for me to grow and it allowed me to receive so many opportunities which have led me to where I am today." Today, Tiara is a rotational product manager at Facebook, where she collaborates to develop new products and features for Facebook and its family of products. Her advice is to be persistent. “Be dedicated and determined, be patient, and don’t give up. I applied to many companies and heard many no’s before receiving that one yes that changed my life.”

Read Tiara's story

Dream Big
No dream is too big or out of reach for Sherquan Dailey ’25. A political science major, he hopes to use lessons learned inside and outside the classroom at Iona to make a difference in the world by opening his own environmental or family law firm. “I’ve been surrounded by powerful Black men and women in law, medicine, government agencies, and more my whole life,” he said. “They are my biggest role models. Their accomplishments have reinforced the fact that my ambitions are not too big.” Sherquan brought that same ambitious spirit to Iona, where he is the events coordinator for the Black Student Union (BSU).

Read Sherquan's Story


Men's Basketball Black History Month Celebration
Friday, 2/3, 7 p.m.
Hynes Athletics Center

Join Coach Pitino and the men's basketball team in celebrating Black History Month as the Gaels take on Mount Saint Mary's. This game will honor the Student Leader Alliance for Multiculturalism (SLAM), the Black Student Union (BSU), the BSU Dance Experience, and the West Indian Student Establishment (WISE). 

Claim your free tickets here

Black Student Union Culture Show
Saturday, February 4, 8 p.m. 
Murphy Auditorium

The Black Student Union (BSU) presents its annual Culture Show, showcasing Black excellence and the incredible talent across the Iona campus and beyond! Admission is only $2 for Iona students, $5 for guests and free for Iona alumni! Come out and enjoy a night of song, dance, fashion and fun in support of the BSU! 

SLAM Movie Nights    
Thursdays, 2/9, 2/16 & 2/23
Join SLAM during the month of February to watch movies that are big hits within the culture and around the world. Follow SLAM Instagram for clues to test your skills to see which movies will be shown!

  • February 9, 6-9 p.m., Unity Lounge, LaPenta Student Union 
  • February 16, 5-7 p.m., End Zone, LaPenta Student Union
  • February 23, 6-9 p.m., Unity Lounge, LaPenta Student Union

Finding Your Financial & Personal Path   
Thursday, 2/9, Noon to 1 p.m.  
LaPenta School of Business, Room 105
Financial consultant and author of “Teen Money 101,” Stacia Morris, joins us for a special presentation in celebration of Black History Month. Morris works to be a catalyst for improving the quality of life for women and families worldwide with a focus on financial literacy, financial health and wellness and professional leadership coaching.

Keeping it Professional: How to Tie a Tie
Wednesday, Feb. 15, 7 p.m.
LaPenta School of Business, Room 105

Career Development, CSE and brothers from the oldest intercollegiate, historically African American fraternity founded in 1906 invite you to learn how to tie a necktie and bowtie. Each attendee will walk away with a FREE necktie! Have a tie you want to donate? Please drop it off at CSE in the LaPenta Student Union!

Equality Day at Women’s Basketball Game
Thursday, 2/16, 11 a.m.
Hynes Athletics Center

Join Coach Chambers and the women’s basketball team in celebrating Equality Day, part of a nationwide campaign designed to keep diversity, equity and inclusion in the national conversation!

Claim free tickets here

"James Hemings: Ghost in America's Kitchen"
Thursday, 2/16, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
End Zone, LaPenta Student Union

If you've ever eaten macaroni and cheese, French fries or ice cream, you've enjoyed the contributions of America's unknown culinary founding father, James Hemings. James Hemings was the first American trained as a master chef. He was also the brother-in-law and enslaved property of Thomas Jefferson.

“Feed Your Soul” GaelGate & Basketball Game   
Friday, 2/17, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. 
Murphy Green and LaPenta Student Union
Come out and enjoy a Soul Food-themed GaelGate before the men’s basketball team takes on Manhattan! The GaelGate starts at 5 p.m. and will feature classic dishes in celebration of Black History Month. As always, admission is free with a ticket to the game (which is also free for students and employees!) and we’ll have complimentary food and refreshments as well as a cash bar for those 21+ plus lots of Gael spirit! 

Claim your free game tickets here

Hearts Around the Globe 
Saturday, 2/18, 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Murphy Center
The Office of DEIB is collaborating with Black Health Matters, in association with the Greater Hudson Valley Chapter of Links, Inc., to present an engaging panel of top cardiologists to discuss leading health issues ranging from heart healing to mental health to nutrition and much more. There will also be a CPR demonstration and anti-bullying workshop. 

Learn more and register for free here

Mes De La Historia Negra
Friday, 2/24, Noon to 2 p.m.
The End Zone, LaPenta Student Union

OLAS and the Office of DEIB present Mes De La Historia Negra. Join us in celebrating Afro-Latino culture and contributions! With guest speakers Dr. Theresa Delgado and Sen. Nathalia Fernandez.

Black Alumni Career Panel
Tuesday, 2/28, Noon
Hear from Black alumni across a wide range of careers and interests, including Tiara Griffith ’20, who landed her dream job at Facebook and is included in our spotlight stories above! Stay tuned for more to come! 

The Equity Collective Career Development Series   
LaPenta School of Business & Morgan Stanley Headquarters
Spearheaded by Iona alumnus Carlos A. Muñoz ‘10MBA, The Equity Collective (EQC) Career Development Series is focused on educating, empowering and developing the next generation of diverse leaders. The next meetings will take place February 15 and March 8 in the LaPenta School of Business, followed by a culminating event March 9 at Morgan Stanley’s global headquarters in New York City! 

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Learn Outside the Lines

African Dance Workshops       
New Rochelle Public Library 
Every Saturday through 2/25, 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. 
This six-week African dance workshop is led by Bokandeye African Dance. Participants will learn basic traditional West African dance movements, some which date back to the 13th century Old Mali Empire. The final performance will take place on February 25 at 3:30 p.m. 

Register here

The Tuskegee Airmen
Virtual Program 
Thursday, 2/9, 7 p.m.
The Tuskegee Airmen were a group of primarily African American military pilots and airmen who fought in World War II. This presentation tells the story of how they took down enemy aircraft abroad - and racial barriers at home. This virtual program through the Pound Ridge Library will be presented by Jeff Urbin, the Education Specialist for the FDR Presidential Library & Museum in observance of Black History Month. 

Register here

Harlem Blues and Jazz Band
New Rochelle Public Library 
Friday, 2/10, 7 p.m. 
Back by popular demand! Founded in 1973 by jazz aficionado Dr. Albert Vollmer, the band brings together the best sidemen of the times who played with such greats as Louis Armstrong, Cab Calloway, Duke Ellington, Fats Waller, Lionel Hampton and more! 

Iona Library Resources

Thank you to the Iona Library staff members who curated a special selection of books, databases and articles for us to learn more about Black history.

Black History Month Library Resources