Madia Cooper-Ashirifi introduces a musical and dance performance of Fanga Alafia during a past Martin Luther King Jr. Day Convocation.
Madia Cooper-Ashirifi introduces a musical and dance performance of Fanga Alafia during a past Martin Luther King Jr. Day Convocation.

Black Faculty and Staff Association events to showcase excellence, communication

Feb 1, 2022
Alyson Shields

The Brenau University Black Faculty and Staff Association will celebrate Black culture and people of color in February during several events for Black History Month, including the rescheduled Martin Luther King Jr. Convocation now planned for Thursday, Feb. 10.

In addition to its monthly meetings, the BFSA also has other events planned throughout the spring semester to support the university’s diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives as well as foster a sense of belonging among faculty, staff and students.

BFSA was established in summer 2020 to cultivate Black community and heritage on Brenau’s campuses, enhance the presence of Black faculty and staff, and engage with the student population through events and monthly gatherings. BFSA President and Dance Department Chair Madia Cooper-Ashirifi said the group wants to foster connections across Brenau.

“The group seeks to expand and deepen dialogue with various Brenau members; increase investment in programming and infrastructure supporting equity, diversity and inclusion; deepen our commitment to enhance diversity; enhance scholarship and collaboration; and confront racism and injustice,” Cooper-Ashirifi said.

Margie Gill poses for a photo with an honorary warrior stick from Rwanda along with a purse and two bracelets gifted to her.
Margie Gill poses with an honorary warrior stick from Rwanda and a purse and two bracelets gifted to her. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

The featured event for the month will be the Martin Luther King Jr. Convocation on Feb. 10 at 12:30 p.m., with Dr. Margie Gill, interim executive director for Institutional Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Initiatives at Brenau, as the featured speaker. The annual event is co-sponsored by BFSA and the Provost’s Office.

“We all can benefit right now from positivity, support and awareness,” Gill said. “I hope my message inspires others to have the courage to have the difficult conversations around racism and other types of oppression. I want to equip attendees with ways to challenge the status quo and empower our next generation of leaders to lead from a socially just, diverse, equitable and inclusive lens.”

Gill said having an organization like BFSA was vital for Brenau to continue to grow a more inclusive space for all.

“BFSA promotes an open and trusting environment that is free of stereotyping, silencing and the labeling of negative archetypes,” Gill said. “The commonalities shared between members create an environment to embrace the culture and lifestyles represented in the group. These healthy professional relationships then develop into alliances that serve as supports for students who may have similar experiences.”

Other events planned for the second week of February include trivia, panel and roundtable discussions, a convocation follow-up discussion and a movie night with a thought-provoking film. Aramark will also be hosting specialty meals featuring African American cuisine during select lunches and dinners leading up to convocation.

“BFSA is committed to showcasing Black excellence throughout the year as well as in February and March, which is Women’s History Month, through community-based programs to discuss and highlight Black contributions to the larger society and the challenges that are prevalent,” Cooper-Ashirifi said.

BFSA’s spring activities will include its monthly Narrative Circles initiative designed to foster communication and reflection in the community. The first of those events for 2022 will be Circling Back: Finding Resolve and Peace of Mind on Feb. 22. Other events include the quarterly Under the Baobao Tree faculty and staff story circle.

BFSA will also recognize graduating students of color in a Nyansapo Kente stole ceremony on April 28 in Pearce Auditorium. The nyansapo, or wisdom knot, symbolizes adinkra from Western Africa, representing wisdom, ingenuity, intelligence and patience. The event is open to all graduates and undergraduates. Cooper-Ashirifi said she hopes the event inspires younger students to continue pursuing higher education and enhances the support system among students, faculty and staff of color on campus.