Every February, Americans recognize Black History Month as an opportunity to highlight the contributions of African Americans across every industry and facet of life. However, the chance to celebrate this identity is present on a daily basis, and this is the mindset that propelled Phanesia Pharel, BC ’21, to found Bold, Beautiful, Black at Barnard and hold it in March rather than February.
Now, in its second year, the four-day event co-hosted by the Barnard Student Government Association committees on Inclusion and Equity and Arts and Culture will include a variety of programming from March 29 through April 3, and will bring alumna and students together to discuss and interact with the arts.
“I was noticing that a lot of my friends and a lot of people here, they [felt] like this school wasn’t for them. They felt out of place,” Pharel said. “I wanted to create this event where we explore the different facets of blackness, because that’s also something that’s really exciting about coming to Barnard, is that [there are] so many ways to be a black person here.”
During her first year, Pharel was a member of the Inclusion and Equity Committee, where she was required to pitch a campus project that aligned with the committee’s goals. This opportunity led to the creation of Bold, Beautiful, Black at Barnard, a weekend focused on dedicating time outside of Black History Month to uplift black students through events under various themes.
“It’s in the SGA constitution now, you cannot put this event in February,” Pharel said. “Don’t do it in February, because I think the problem with America, and I think the problem with the way we view things is, February we’re always talking about black people. First of all, it goes by way too fast, because it’s the shortest month of the year. And so, I think it’s absolutely disrespectful to only celebrate black people during February.”
In less than two years, the event has gone from an individual project to one of the few representative-led events included as part of the new SGA constitution. SGA president Nicola Kirkpatrick, BC ’19, spoke on the importance of including the event in the document and ensuring its continued funding.
“It’s a worthwhile event, it gets people interested, and quite frankly I think it should be annual. Then it should be prefunded, you shouldn’t have to scrape for money,” Kirkpatrick said. “Now with the constitutional review that happened in February, early March, now it is an annual event and it’s in the constitution. Therefore, regardless of if the rep for arts and culture is Phanesia or not, or someone who’s really interested in the event for the pure sake of the event, it will happen.”
Kicking off the weekend will be the Friday launch of an art exhibit at Altschul Atrium entitled Redefining the Center, curated alongside Ratrock Magazine. The exhibit will feature works by both students and alumna that “explore black femme art” and will run from March 29 through April 3.
On March 31, the focus will shift to style with a panel welcoming Nana Agyemang, Journalism ’17, the CEO and founder of EveryStylishGirl. According to SGA, the event will focus on “black brand-making, motivation, and empowerment,” with an emphasis on how these apply to the fashion industry.
For its concluding event on April 1, Bold, Beautiful, Black at Barnard will partner with Beyond Barnard to bring panelists from a variety of arts professions for a conversation on access for women of color in the arts. Panelists will include dancer, choreographer, and multimedia artist djassi daCosta johnson, BC ’96, Associate Executive at Fitz & Co. Abigail H. Kim, BC ’17, Curatorial Fellow at the Museum of Modern Art Nectar Knuckles, BC ’17, and Harlem Arts Alliance Administrative Director of Programs Joyous Pierce.
Though hosted at Barnard, Pharel emphasized that the event is open to student and alumni involvement from across the University.
“I think a lot of the times people will go over to Columbia too much instead of building something here [at Barnard]. So that’s why it’s Bold, Beautiful, Black at Barnard, but we want Columbia students to come,” said Pharel.
Echoing Pharel’s sentiment, Kirkpatrick stressed that the importance of the event lies in making space for every community represented in the Barnard student body.
“If we’re a diversifying student body, if Admissions is going to say every year we have this many people from these different communities, then we need to have the institutional means in place. I think Bold, Beautiful, Black at Barnard is one of those means that quite often I think the College lacks,” Kirkpatrick said. “We can invite whoever we want to campus, but if we don’t have the structures in place, then really, who are we helping?”
Correction: A previous version of this article did not include the names of every panelist at the Bold, Beautiful, Black at Barnard and Beyond Barnard event. Spectator regrets the error.