On February 28th , Yenching Academy celebrated Black History Month. Originating in the United States of America, Black History Month was initiated to appreciate the historic and enduring struggles, triumphs, and contributions of the African American community. Since its foundations in America, the celebration has been adopted by other Western nations and has provided opportunities for recognition of a wider Black history.
Although Yenching Academy's Black History Month celebration was held in a more global tradition—celebrating African and African Diaspora histories and cultures—the celebration took its inspiration from the American National Black Anthem's first line, “Lift every voice.” Yenching's scholars of African heritage were able to share culture with the Yenching and broader Peking University community through cuisine, clothing, proverbs and music. Jollof rice was served alongside fried okra, chickpea curry and Egusi soup. Throughout the celebration, the diverse Black voices of Nina Simone, Sister Nancy, Our Native Daughters, Oliver Mtukudzi, and Kwesi Arthur blended together to highlight the rich and varied cultural contributions of the Black community.
The event also sought to bring to the fore hidden voices. Walls were decorated with posters that at once amplified these voices and linked them to the global Yenching experience. The voice of African General Abraham Petrovich Gannibal, great grandfather of the towering Russian literary figure, Alexander Pushkin, sounded in lines of Eugène Onegin that discussed “my Africa, where waves break high.” The voice of African Ikhlas Khan who became Prime Minister of Bijapur (India) was heard through a poster of his ancient portrait. The posters gave the day to many other hidden Black voices around the world including W. E. B. Dubois's longstanding conversations with leaders of modern China.
The celebration itself was enlivened by the many voices present in the Peking University community beyond Yenching Academy. Scholars enjoyed welcoming students from the Institute of South-South Cooperation and Development, the PKU School of International Studies, the PKU Africa Student Association, and the students of PKU Professor of Sino-African relations, the venerable Professor Liu Haifang. A warm and lively celebration ended with a showing of the critically acclaimed film, Hidden Figures.
written by Olivia Holder
photos by Huang Sizhuo