Jada Young '13 (Black Studies)
"My most fulfilling experience at New Paltz was Black Solidarity Day 2012, because I played a large part in the event's execution. I feel that I did so fearlessly and I stepped out of my shell almost completely."
Black Solidarity Day was created in 1969 as a day nationally observed by African-American men, women and students. It always occurs the Monday before elections take place; this year, it falls on Nov. 7, 2016. Originally, the event brought black people together to discuss their political status and the direction in which their future was going. The day also focused on the value and goals of education within the community. It was, and still is, a day of discussion and a time for everyone, no matter of what race or education, to discuss how we all affect each other’s lives.
To learn what inspired Black Solidarity Day – which is organized each year by the Black Student Union – a one need not look further than Douglas Turner Ward’s play, “A Day of Absence,” which premiered in 1965. The premise of the play, set in a satirical old southern town in the United States, involves white townspeople waking up one morning to find that all the black people had vacated the town. This leads to a heightened recognition of their contributions to the community, and a newfound “You don’t know what you’ve got ‘till it’s gone” mentality.
According to Anthony Winn ’92, an engaged New Paltz alumnus who was appointed as a special assistant to the Black Studies Department early this year, participants in Black Solidarity Days of the past would gather in the basement of Shango Hall to “pull away for a day” and engage in socials and workshops.
New Day Ensemble performs "A Day of Absence," the play that inspired Black Solidarity Day.
Photo by Maria Jayne, courtesy of The Little Rebellion
But over the years, the event has attracted more participants and has extended well beyond the black student community.
“It has become a diverse, community-building, ally-building event,” said Winn. “I’ve watched it grow – students of all backgrounds are a part of it.”
Thus, Black Solidarity Day observations were moved to the Praise Family Life Center in Kingston, N.Y., several years ago. Here, an excerpt from “A Day of Absence” is performed each year, and participants have the opportunity to engage in workshops on a variety of subjects (health, social issues, leadership and specially selected topics, to name a few) and listen to keynote speakers secured by Black Student Union organizers.
Black Solidarity Day has traditionally taken place the day before Election Day, Winn said, because in years past, before advances in communication technology, this was one of the only ways for the black community to convene before election time and share with each other the issues that mattered to them and which candidates they would be supporting or not supporting.
Students lead Black Solidarity Day observations at the Praise Family Life Center in Kingston, N.Y., in 2010.
Photo courtesy of the New Paltz Oracle
WHEREAS, Black Solidarity Day is a national event that has taken place since 1969; and
WHEREAS, Black Solidarity Day has been celebrated at SUNY New Paltz since 1971; and
WHEREAS, approximately three hundred students participate in Black Solidarity Day each year; and
WHEREAS, this event is always the first Monday in November; therefore be it
RESOLVED, that it is required that no tests, quizzes, or graded material of any kind should be issued or due on Black Solidarity Day, and that students who are participating in Black Solidarity Day should notify their professors beforehand, and that these students will not be held accountable for absence on Black Solidarity Day.