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February 22, 2024

  • Danez Smith at AWP
    Richard Saker/Contour by Getty Images As we end Black History Month, here is one of my favorite poets, Danez Smith, who writes on intersectionality between their Black and Queer identities. At the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) conference in Kansas City, MO, I had the opportunity to personally meet Smith, and they are […]
  • Lying in Memoir
    Lauren Slater crafts diligent, depictive metaphors in narrative, and I hate her writing, simultaneously. Should there be lying in memoir? In her book, Lying: A Metaphorical Memoir (2000), Slater crafts lies from epilepsy to nunneries to doctor visits and proposed peer reviewed theses to AA meetings. However, within these lies, she allows us to question […]
Spring Housing Guide

Black History at BGSU

A time to honor African American contributions

The month first began being recognized in the United States in 1976 after President Gerald Ford signed a commemoration to honor Black Americans’ enrichment to society.

“Black History Month is an annual celebration of the history of Black people, African American people [and] blackness, particularly in the U.S.,” said Dr. Katie Stygles, BGSU’s interim chief diversity and belonging officer. “It is an opportunity to engage in learning about culture, celebrating all of the contributions of Black people to this nation.”

While the month may be celebrated nationwide, Stygles said it’s also important to recognize the month here on campus, too.

“On campus, it’s important for us to celebrate Black History Month because we also have African American students, faculty, staff and community members. Of course, as an educational institution, it is important for us to keep our attention on educating ourselves on various issues that impact our community and have impacted our history as we have gotten to where we are today,” she said.

As the month gets underway, Falcon Media takes a look at a few Black figures who have visited BGSU and the community.

James Baldwin

James Baldwin, left, and Dr. Ernest Champion, right, teaching at BGSU.

James Baldwin first visited BGSU in 1977 to deliver a public lecture, according to the BGSU archives. He was a poet, novelist, social activist and critic.

Likewise, BGSU was the first American university to invite Baldwin to a residency in higher education. Over the course of five years, he served BGSU in multiple residencies as a Writer and Distinguished Visiting Professor of Ethnic Studies.

In 1976, Assistant Professor Ernest A. Champion invited Baldwin to speak on campus.

“Bowling Green State University has a student population of 16,000 of which approximately 1,000 are Black or other minorities. We feel our students should be given the opportunity to meet and to hear from persons of such high distinction as yourself,” Champion said in an October 1976 letter inviting Baldwin to campus.

In May 1980, Baldwin received an Honorary Doctorate in the Humane Letters from then BGSU President Hollis A. Moore.

Dr. Robert L. Perry

Dr. Robert L. Perry

Dr. Robert L. Perry, a retired professor and BGSU alumni of 1959 and 1965, was the inaugural director of the university’s ethnic studies program. He is credited with shaping multiple diversity and belonging initiatives on campus.

Perry helped establish the university’s Cultural Diversity in the United States requirement in 1992.

As a result of his creativity and innovation, BGSU honored Perry in 2021 with the naming of the Robert L. Perry Veranda located in Shatzel Hall. Perry and his family attended the event.

“May we each commit to investing in the movement so that a new generation of students may learn from our work together. Thank you for your recognition, and thank you, Falcons, for your fighting spirit,” Perry said in a university article about honoring him for his achievements.

James Pickens Jr.

James Pickens Jr. Photo by @therealjpickjr on X.

James Pickens Jr. is an American actor best known for his role as Dr. Richard Webber in ABC’s medical drama television series, Grey’s Anatomy.

Pickens, a native of Cleveland, Ohio, earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from BGSU in 1976.

In addition, he spoke at the university’s August 2008 commencement ceremony and was presented with BGSU’s Distinguished Alumnus Award, according to the BGSU Archives.

Finally, he has been nominated for and received several awards during his time as an actor on various shows.

Elaine Bryant

Elaine Bryant (center).

More recently, Elaine Bryant, a May 2019 BGSU graduate became the first Black woman in Columbus, Ohio history to serve as police chief in 2021.

Bryant earned a Master of Science in criminal justice degree. Prior to being selected as Columbus’ police chief, she served 21 years as a member of the Detroit Police Department, including deputy chief following her graduation from BGSU.

As a strong advocate for reform and inclusion, while serving the Detroit Police Department, she redesigned investigations in compliance with a Department of Justice decree. She also led the Domestic Violence Unit, worked in the Equal Employment Opportunity Office, Internal Affairs, and created several projects to increase connections between police officers and citizens, according to the BGSU Archives.

Clarence Albert Daniels Jr.

Clarence Albert Daniels Jr.

Clarence Albert Daniels Jr., BGSU alumni of 1971 and 1973, is a former CEO of Concessions Management Services (CMS) Hospitality, an airport food and beverage company.

He built CMS Hospitality from three stores located at LAX airport to 40 locations at eight major airports, according to the BGSU Archives. The company was a leader in introducing popular local restaurants in airports as well.

Since selling the business in 2016, he has spent time mentoring youth, small businesses and nonprofit organizations. In addition, he created a mentor program for disadvantaged males.

Further, Daniels served as vice president of the Marriott Corporation, among many other leadership roles, including a child advocate and civil rights lawyer.

Daniels was one of the keynote speakers at the 2023 BGSU Black Issues Conference.

Kelley McCoy Williams

Kelley McCoy Williams

Kelley McCoy Williams is a 1988 BGSU alumnus and earned a political science degree.

In addition, she became the first Black Undergraduate Student Government (USG) president. Similarly, she also became the first female and black female president.

Williams recalls in a BGSU Archives article that she was told the university wasn’t ready for a Black person to lead student government, let alone a woman. She also recounts the challenges she encountered while being a sales associate as a Black woman.

Carl Sandifer

Carl Sandifer

Carl Sandifer, a 2005 BGSU alumnus, enjoys working at NASA and the chance to support sending a spacecraft to Mars. He earned his bachelor’s degree in applied mathematics.

In 2021, Sandifer had the opportunity to work on the NASA Mars Perseverance Rover team. He began working with NASA in 2001 as part of a summer co-op following his freshman year.

He now works as the deputy chief of the Space Science Project Office.

Bernie Casey

Bernie Casey

Bernie Casey, a 1961 and 1966 university alumni, was an athlete, artist and actor.

Earning his art education degree in 1961 while attending on a football scholarship, he was one of the key players on the BGSU 1959 football team. He was inducted into the university’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 1966 and the Mid-American Conference Hall of Fame.

In addition, he was selected as the ninth draft pick in the first round of the 1961 draft by the San Francisco 49ers, the highest a BGSU player has ever been drafted in the NFL. He also played for the Los Angeles Rams.

He also earned a master’s degree in fine arts. He held 40 art exhibitions around the world, showcasing his work in numerous cities including San Francisco, Washington D.C. and BGSU.

He was also an actor who worked with John Travolta, Eddie Murphy and Burt Reynolds.

Finally, he was inducted as a 1979 member of BGSU Distinguished Alumnus and was named one of the university’s Most Prominent Alumni in 2010.

And More…

The prominent Black figures mentioned above are just a small selection of Black individuals who have made an impact on BGSU and the community.

While these individuals are recognized during Black History Month, BGSU’s interim chief diversity and belonging officer said celebrating these individuals should not be limited to only one month.

“Black History Month is a great opportunity for our whole campus community to come together to learn together and to celebrate, much like the rest of the history and heritage months; so, it’s really an opportunity to highlight in a particularly intentional way for the month of February,” said Stygles. “All of this celebration and inclusion is something we strive for throughout the year, not just limited to one month.”

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