Black History Month Assembly

The Black Student Union put on a powerful presentation celebrating the history and future of Portland’s Black community

Clarion photo Audience member @ assembly
From left to right: Charles Hunter, Bill Jackson, Michelle Lewis, Charles Hannah, Mel Brown, Kenya Anderson, Kennidee Gillespie.

The Black Student Union held an assembly on Feb. 16 celebrating Black History Month. Students from all grades met in the auditorium in the morning. The assembly started with student Kennidee Gillespie leading a moment of silence while pictures of black Americans who had been killed flashed across the screen.

Guest Kenya Anderson took the stage for the Black National Anthem, “Lift Every Voice,” written by J. Rosamond Johnson and James Weldon Johnson. The entire auditorium stood as she sang, her words echoing across the auditorium.

After a round of applause senior Hassan Shieghey, a member of the BSU, gave a speech centering around the Black residents of Portland. He mentioned the prejudice and redlining, giving real-world examples like Vanport, while also mentioning their longtime presence in places like the Albina neighborhood.

Next, Zora Forsberg took the stage and gave a speech about the history of jazz and how it has been pioneered by black Americans. She continued to connect jazz music with hip-hop, their influence on one another, and how they are connected through Black artistry.

The assembly then transitioned into speeches by guest speakers. First were Michelle Lewis and Charles Hannah, a couple who run Third Eye Books. They talked about their business and what kind of books they sell, many about African American experiences and history as well as social justice and anti-racism. They encouraged the student body to come to their store and to remember the power that reading has.

Next, an OPB special about the Portland drummer and acclaimed godfather of Portland jazz, Mel Brown, was shown. After the video ended, Mel Brown himself came onto the stage and was met with loud applause from the crowd. He talked about his experiences in Portland and gave insight into his time as a musician traveling the country.

Gillespie closed out the assembly with a few final words and by thanking the guest speakers and her fellow BSU cabinet. The BSU as a whole, then thanked the students for coming and the audience left the auditorium to resume their classes.