Quinta B. Kicks Off Black History Month

Lineup signals new energy at the Multicultural Resource Center.

By Ben Williams ’14 | February 1, 2018

BuzzFeed star Quinta B. will discuss race, comedy, and media on Friday to kick off Black History Month at Reed, which this year features the first-ever Black Arts Festival, a Soul Food Night, a documentary about Black English, and a panel on racial justice.

The lineup is intended to celebrate blackness, educate, and break down prejudices, explains Ruby White, the new director of Reed’s Multicultural Resource Center, who worked with students to organize the monthlong celebration.

The keynote speaker is Quinta B., a writer, actor, and stand-up comedian known for her viral videos and BuzzFeed success. “She navigates blackness through a comedic lens, bringing awareness into the experiences Black folks often put up with in a way that is educational and entertaining, and allows folks to feel forms of respite and affirmation of oppressive experiences and microaggressions,” says White.

On February 17, the MRC will host a Black Arts Festival, featuring headliner The Last Artful, Dodgr, who upends any assumption made on appearance. The openers are the vogue, suave, gender-nonconforming Maarquiis and the uplifting afrofuturist duo Brown Calculus. The festival also features a marketplace and cash bar.

Minds and palates will be opened at an array of other events, including:

  • a lecture by Dr. Derrais Carter, assistant professor of black studies at Portland State University
  • a screening of Talking Black in America with producer Walt Wolfram (sponsored by the linguistics department and the office for institutional diversity)
  • a screening of I Am Not Your Negro
  • a panel on building racial justice in Mississippi (sponsored by the office for institutional diversity, the office for inclusive community, the committee on diversity, and the student senate)
  • a Soul Food Night
  • a reading by Prof. John Keene, author of the award-winning collection Counternarratives, and chair of the department of African American and African Studies at Rutgers University-Newark.

All events are free and open to the public.

The centering of celebration emanates through the lineup, focusing on the rich panoply of experience that is the Black/African Diaspora.

White praised the Reed students who created the program. “They’re amazing, hardworking and innovative,” she says. “They’re young intellectuals, hip to everything. More attention should be spent on celebrating and recognizing our own students here who have these marginalized identities because they’re absolutely some of the most brilliant students I’ve ever worked with.”

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the MRC, and White has brought new energy and a fresh perspective to the center.

“To be a black person in this climate, especially in the U.S., is to watch your culture and things you make catapult to the pinnacle of ‘cool’ and trendy, yet the overall belief about who you are, because you look a certain way, remains down here,” she explains. “The contributions to entertainment, the medical field, are talked about, but people don’t want to look at the education gaps or the historical systems put in place to deny housing. What we want to bring to light is the acknowledgment of the highs and lows, and that ultimately black people should be looked at for who they are: people.”

The Black History Month programming asks Reed to live up to its ideals, with the Reed tradition of confronting ideas in the classroom. “We’re not here to make folks comfortable,” she says. “We’re here to challenge people, to confront harmful rhetoric and help people grow as they sit in that discomfort.” To this end, she proposes radical empathy, learning from one another, and knowing that everyone makes mistakes.

Tags: Campus Life, Diversity/Equity/Inclusion, Performing Arts