As part of the university’s celebration of Black History Month (BHM), Stony Brook University invited and hosted a panel on Feb. 7 of Black alumni from the 1960s and 1970s to talk about their experiences as Black students, student activism, the formation of the Black Studies Program (now Africana Studies), and beyond.
Deborah Britton-Riley ’78, ’81, Mitchel Cohen ’74, Linda Humes ’77, Dwight Loines ’73 and Leslie Owens ’82 were among the panelists.
Many of the panelists were instrumental in the representation of Black students on campus during the university’s early years. Britton-Riley was co-founder of the Black Womyn’s Association at Stony Brook, Humes was vice president of the Black Student Union and co-founder of the first Black Theater Club, and Loines was a student representative in the development of the Black Studies curriculum and the minister of information for Black Students United.
The panel began with a call to action for the many Stony Brook students in the audience. While discussing her student activism, Humes encouraged students to “take advantage of everything you think you might be interested in right now. Whatever it is, let this be your experimental playground. When you graduate from Stony Brook, you get to take it all with you.”
“Be true to yourself,” Humes’ said. “Don’t allow anyone to define you or tell you what you can or cannot do. Even if you don’t have the language right now, you will become your own unique self.” In coordination with this event, the Paul W. Zuccaire Gallery’s exhibition ‘Revisiting 5+1’ reflected similar themes to the panelists’ discussion. The gallery shares windows into what Stony Brook University was like in 1969, showcasing Black artists working in abstraction during the first semester of Black Studies Program courses. The exhibition will be on display until March 31.