Alumna Wanda Daniels ’71, a retired high school history teacher, recently sat in front of an attentive audience in Elmira College’s Gibson Theatre and shared lesser-known details about the Underground Railroad. Throughout the presentation, she encouraged her audience to seek out more information.

“The story of the underground railroad is still unfolding. There are more chapters to be written, and who’s going to write them?” she said, implying the audience should complete the task.

“I loved it,” said Mihret Haile ’26, a Nursing major from Ethiopia who was among the attendees at Daniels’ presentation. “A lot of things [Daniels] said were encouraging.”

Haile explained that she hadn’t previously learned much about the history of black people in the United States. “This was a lot of new information for me and I loved it because it is about black culture,” she said.

Dr. Charlie Mitchell, Professor of American Studies and History at EC, said he learned new details about the southbound Underground Railroad that helped shepherd slaves to freedom by going south to Mexico instead of to the north.

“I saw some things I did not know and will change some of the things I teach as a result,” he said.

Among the many lessons that Daniels shared was the concept of Sankofa. Symbolized as a backward-looking bird, Sankofa teaches the importance of reflecting on the past to build a successful future. This theme was reflected in other Black History Month events celebrated throughout February.

“Black History Month is important,” said David Lee ’26, President of the Elmira College Black Student Union (BSU). Lee and other BSU members helped coordinate and organize Black History Month events, including a Tuesday Talk with Michele Johnson, MPA, MSEd ’11, the Black History in Action panel discussion with area black professionals, live music by Top Shelf, and Black History Month presentations provided by BSU students to 3rd-grade classrooms at Parley Coburn Elementary School.

In another event, BSU collaborated with another club, the EC2 Development Team, an entrepreneurial group. An EC2 club member took photos of BSU students from different geographical, religious, and cultural backgrounds highlighting how fashion is influential and important to black culture. The images were posted to Instagram and include information from the participants about who inspired their outfits.

“We wanted to get everyone together and show how their culture affects and inspires their fashion sense,” said Lee.

He was excited about everything accomplished during Black History Month but is also looking ahead to next year. He hopes there will be greater participation among the BSU members and more attendance at all of the events.

Lee said that, in elementary and high school, many people receive an incomplete picture of the diverse cultures that shaped the United States.

“College is a place where you are going to learn a lot of things and be introduced to new experiences and perspectives on the world. It can give you more awareness,” he said.

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