Celebrating Black History Month at Pitzer College

Celebrating Black History Month

Join Pitzer College as we honor the history and celebrate the contributions and achievements of Black Americans. We will share community members’ thoughts on Black History Month and information about related events at Pitzer and The Claremont Colleges. Please check this page often—events and features will be added throughout February.

Pitzer recognizes national history and heritage months as part of its celebration of the diversity of the College community. It is also committed to exploring issues related to history and heritage year-round. We’ve included links to a couple of virtual events that focus on these themes and touch on some of the most important issues of our times.

As President Melvin L. Oliver said more than 20 years ago, it’s crucial “to stop looking at a slice of history…and to instead look at the scope of history” to change public policy—and to honor, celebrate, and write the next chapter. 

Pitzer Community Spotlights

Derek S. Mitchell, Pitzer College Trustee

Meet a Pitzer Trustee

Derek S. Mitchell, Ph.D. (he, his, him)

Job Title
CEO, Partners in School Innovation

Pitzer Affiliation
Pitzer College Trustee

What does Black History Month mean to you?
For me, more than anything, Black History Month means opportunity. Opportunity to learn more about the multifaceted and purposefully excluded history of Black people in our country. Opportunity to transparently and boldly tackle the forces of erasure that even today wants to remove anything from history that might make some feel a certain way about their ancestors. And opportunity to engage others across difference in shared learning about the truth of our shared past. Given everything that Black people have endured to remain in this country and the challenges posed by our expected allegiance to the same symbols and ideologies under which we have been repeatedly victimized as a people, the truth remains that our journey is the embodiment of our country’s highest ideals.

How do you celebrate Black History Month?
First thing I do is find out the theme of the Black History Month and try to lean into that theme for the month of February and beyond. Every Black History Month since the first has had a theme, and this year it is Black Health and Wellness. Good theme for coming out of the COVID period. So, this month, I took my first vacation in several years at a wellness retreat center where all the food served was vegan (yikes) and local, and in addition to yoga-like exercises and long walks every day, I did a LOT of sleeping and reading for fun. Most years I also tackle a part of our history that I don’t know much about, as an effort to educate myself. This year I focused on the lived experience of Black folks during the Reconstruction period. What an incredibly rich, and often tragic period in our struggle that more often than not, is simply skipped in most history books. 

Meet a Pitzer Alum

Derric J. Johnson ’95, M.A., M.P.A. (he/him/his)

Job Title
Vice President, Los Angeles County Human Relations Commission

Major at Pitzer

Voluntary Organizations and Associations
Pitzer College (Alumni Board Member), United Friends of the Children (Board Member), MLK Health and Wellness Community Development Corporation (Board Member), Brilliant Corners (Board Member), Children’s Defense Fund-CA (Executive Council Member), National Urban Fellow

What does Black History Month mean to you?
This month is no more significant than any other when understanding and acknowledging the myriad contributions/accomplishments/achievements/triumphs of our descents from the African diaspora. I don’t mean to appear cynical, however, the inconsistencies and lack of recognition for us (Black Folkx) remain one of the major barriers impeding our fully effectuated privileges and basic human rights. As we progress (taking time to celebrate victories and practicing rituals of self-care), this month is also a reminder of the intersectional struggles and compounded forms of racial discrimination, marginalization, and exclusion still present. The pandemic, for example, provided further clarity re: the urgency to address long-standing structural inequities and systemic racism. Black History Month, for me, is a subtle nudge to carry on with the call to action.

How do you celebrate Black History Month?
I celebrate daily by remaining unapologetically Black…and proud!

Alicia Bonaparte, Associate Professor of Sociology

Meet a Pitzer Faculty Member

Alicia D. Bonaparte, Ph.D. (she/her/hers)

Position at Pitzer
Associate Professor of Sociology

Recent Classes Taught
Wokeness in African American Social Theory (SOC 109); Sociology of Health and Medicine (SOC 122); Introduction to Sociology (SOC 1)

Research Interests
Racial health disparities, midwifery, hierarchies in the U.S. medical system, racialized constructions of deviance, birth justice, and reproductive justice

What does Black History Month mean to you? 
Black History Month, albeit short, is an opportunity to celebrate the great contributions and wisdom contributed by Black people. It’s also an opportunity to shed light on the important work of Black activists, scholars, artists, and writers who consistently discuss, describe, portray, and highlight the experiences of Black people and contribute to deeper understandings of the social realities of Black people in the US and across the Diaspora. I also love seeing the pride that Black people have about our heritage and what it means to them to be a part of an audaciously creative and inspiring group of people. 

How do you celebrate Black History Month?
I celebrate Black history year-round, but I do take more time during BHM to revisit writings and artists who were influenced by Black feminist lens in my scholarship as well as investigate new and upcoming works by Black people, particularly Black femmes.

Meet a Pitzer Staff Member

Brandon Kyle, MPA, Ed.D. (he/him/his)

Position at Pitzer
Executive Director of Alumni & Family Engagement and Annual Giving

Voluntary Organizations and Associations
Pitzer College Staff Council Chair of the Staff Advocacy for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion; Board President for the USC LGBTQ Alumni Association; Member of Alpha Phi Omega Fraternity

What does Black History Month mean to you?
This month highlights what I feel all year round, which is a strong sense of pride in where I come from and a celebration of the strength and richness of my heritage. I am humbled by the many great accomplishments and advancements that my community has made, not just in the country but across the globe, and on a daily basis, I feel inspired to be a descendant of their legacy. When I was in grade school, my grandmother would read stories to me about all the great African-American inventors, artists, change-makers, and leaders who had come before us. It was her way to showcase our greatest potential during a time when society would have made me believe in something else altogether. I am forever grateful to be able to celebrate those people each and every day, but Black History Month allows the rest of the world to witness what so many of us have known for a lifetime. 

How do you celebrate Black History Month?
In addition to honoring our history and heritage, I celebrate this month by trying to learn about new and upcoming Black change agents, artists, leaders, and social justice activists who are thriving and having an impact in the world. 

Meet a Pitzer Student

Paris Primm ’22 (she/her/hers)

Africana Studies and Organizational Studies

Pitzer Organizations and Associations
Black Student Union President, Admission Fellow, Advancement Ambassador, Evan Foster Endowed Scholar (2018)

Post-graduate plans
Pursue a career in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion consulting

What does Black History Month mean to you?
Black History Month means having a centered time to celebrate what my ancestors put in place for me and my people.

How do you celebrate Black History Month?
I celebrate BHM by affirming my place in being a part of Black History and making sure my actions are not confined to the 28 days in February but are my life.

Zoom Backgrounds

Celebrate Black History Month with one of our Zoom backgrounds.

To download: Click on the image to open a larger file, then download it to your computer.

Black History Month Zoom Background
Black History Month Zoom Background

Black History Month Events: February 2022

Ongoing Events

Bon Appétit Celebrates Black History Month with Matthew Raidford

Bon Appétit is partnering with celebrated CheFarmer (a combination of Chef and Farmer) Matthew Raiford. Matthew will be joining a number of communities that Bon Appétit serves for in-person and virtual events. Additionally, Bon Appétit chefs across the country will be making recipes from Matthew’s cookbook, Bress ‘n’ Nyam.

Past Events

Michael Gomez: Conceptualizing the African Diaspora
February 22, 2:45-5 p.m.

The Intercollegiate Department of Africana Studies presents Michael Gomez, Professor of History and Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies, New York University.

MLK Commemorative Lecture: Bryant Terry in Conversation
Thursday, February 10, at 6 p.m.
A Virtual Event

Join Bryant Terry, the James Beard Award-winning chef, educator, and author, for a conversation about food and activism. This event was live-streamed.

The Claremont Colleges’ annual MLK Commemorative Lecture celebrates Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s life and work. This year’s event is supported in part by the Office of Black Student Affairs (OBSA) and Scripps Presents.

This event and more are highlighted in OBSA’s Spring Newsletter.

Video Library: A sampling of previously recorded virtual events

Racial Justice in Our Time: A Conversation with Activist Scholars
With President Melvin L. Oliver, author, advocate and researcher Andrea J. Ritchie, and UC Berkeley Professor john a. powell. Presented by the Racial Justice Initiative.

Embracing Our Activist Past and Exploring Our Present: OBSA & CLSA Celebrate Over 50 Years of Community Building
Presented by Pitzer@Home as part of Alumni Weekend 2021. Featuring OBSA Dean and Director Lydia Middleton; CLSA Assistant Dean of Students Xochitl Casillas, Associate Professor of Chicana/o Latina/o Transnational Studies Suyapa Portillo; Assistant Professor of Africana Studies Maryan Soliman.

True Equity Part III: Pitzer’s Inaugural Black Alumni Caucus
Moderated by Pitzer Alumni Board member Derric J. Johnson ’95, with panelists Judge Mablean Ephriam ’71, Germaine Jackson ’93, Jai Phillips ’02, Paris Primm ’22. Introduction by Executive Director of Alumni & Family Engagement and Annual Giving Brandon Kyle. Presented by Pitzer@Home.

View More Virtual Events…

Additional Online Resources and Events

Association for the Study of African American Life and History


National Museum of African American History and Culture