The Office for Diversity and Inclusion and the Provost’s Office would like to remind you of several celebrations, commemorations, and moments of raising awareness for members of our community during the month of February:
Heritage Month Celebrations:
Black History Month (February): Black History month celebrates Black and African American history, culture, achievements, and excellence. It also draws attention to the lived experiences of Black and African Americans within the United States, including by celebrating Black and African American communities and creating awareness about issues these communities face. This celebration began in the United States in 1926, when Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) head Dr. Carter G. Woodson recommended that schools use the second week of February—which holds the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass—to ensure students are exposed to Black history. Fifty years later, this week was expanded into a month-long celebration. Every president since 1976 has proclaimed February to be Black History Month.
The theme for this year’s Black History Month is “Black Resistance.” According to ASALH, this theme educates the community about the fact that “African Americans have resisted historic and ongoing oppression, in all forms, especially the racial terrorism of lynching, racial pogroms, and police killings since our arrival upon these shores. [Black Resistance] efforts have been to advocate for a dignified self-determined life in a just democratic society in the United States and beyond.” At heart of this theme is the recognition that Black and African American people have had to consistently push the United States to live up to its ideals of freedom, liberty, and justice for all.
Black History Month is a time to celebrate the fullness of Black and African American history and culture, though such celebrations cannot—and should not—be limited to a single month. At UConn, we believe that Black history, culture, and excellence should be celebrated every day. The University aims to provide opportunities for celebration, community building, and education through the African American Cultural Center (AACC) and Africana Studies Institute, as well as through a course on Anti-Black Racism.
We invite the entire UConn community to join in celebrating this year’s Black History Month. The UConn Foundation and UConn School of Social Work will be hosting an event, Giving Voice to the Black Experience: How She Resisted, featuring guest speaker Miles Wilson-Toliver. This event will be held on Wednesday, February 1, from 11:45 to 1:15 in Hartford. The AACC and USG are partnering to host a Black History Month Opening Ceremony featuring Dr. Cornel West. This program is Thursday, February 2, at 7:30 PM in McHugh Hall. All are invited; no RSVP is required. Global Café at Avery Point will also hold two events in honor of Black History Month, a discussion with Manju Soni on Student Activism and “Creating a Path that Matters: Entrepreneurship, Community Engagement, and Social Justice” a talk by Curtis Goodwin. Check out the Diversity website for more events.
Cultural Holidays: February holds several significant cultural and federal holidays:
National Freedom Day (February 1): National Freedom Day celebrates the end of slavery in the United States and recognizes the United States as a symbol of liberty. National Freedom Day was proposed in 1941 by Richard Robert Wright, Sr. to commemorate the day President Lincoln signed a Congressional resolution stating that “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” This resolution would become the Thirteenth Amendment on December 18, 1865. National Freedom Day became a national holiday in 1948.
World Hijab Day (February 1): World Hijab Day was started in 2013 by Nazma Khan, who wanted to foster religious tolerance and understanding by inviting all women to wear a hijab for one day each year. In the decade since, World Hijab Day has grown to promote awareness, education, and empowerment in order to dismantle bigotry, discrimination, and prejudice against Muslim women. World Hijab Day celebrates religious tolerance and women’s rights around the world.
Valentine’s Day (February 14): Valentine’s Day is celebrated annually on February 14. The origins of the holiday are disputed; some accounts point to pagan fertility festivals while others point to St. Valentine, an early Christian saint martyred for performing weddings in defiance of a ban on marriage for military-aged men. Today, Valentine’s Day is typically regarded as a celebration of romantic love.
Presidents Day (February 20): President’s Day, also known as Washington’s Birthday on the federal level and for the State of Connecticut, is celebrated in the United States on the third Monday of February. Established in 1879 to honor Washington’s February 22 birthday, Presidents Day was moved to the third Monday of February in 1970 as part of the Uniform Monday Holidays Act to create more three-day weekends for workers. The holiday now celebrates all US presidents, past and present.
Religious Holidays: February holds several significant religious holidays for members of the UConn Community:
Candlemas (February 2nd): Candlemas is a Christian holiday that occurs 40 days after Christmas. Also known as Presentation of the Lord, Candlemas commemorates Jesus’ presentation at the Temple. For Catholics, in particular, Candlemas honors the purification of the Virgin Mary. Many Orthodox Christians celebrate by having beeswax candles blessed at church or at home. Candlemas is celebrated as Día de la Candelaria in many Spanish speaking countries. Whoever finds the baby figures hidden inside the Rosca de Reyes cake from El Día de Reyes / Three Kings Day is obliged to host the Candelaria gathering. Candlemas is halfway between the December Solstice and the March and March Equinox, marking the halfway point for winter.
Mardi Gras (February 21st): Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, is a Christian holiday and global pop cultural event. Mardi Gras occurs the day before the start of the Christian Lenten season on Ash Wednesday. Fat Tuesday gets its name from the custom of using all the remaining eggs, milk, and fats in a household before beginning a Lenten fast. Mardi Gras is also the end of Carnival season that starts on Twelfth Night. It is usually celebrated with elaborate parades and the eating of king cake. Some of the most well-known Mardi Gras celebrations are held in New Orleans, Rio (Brazil), and Venice (Italy).
Ash Wednesday (February 22nd): Ash Wednesday is a Christian holiday of fasting, sacrifice, and prayer. Celebrated by Catholics, Orthodox Christians, and many Protestant denominations, Ash Wednesday marks the start of Lent, a 40-day period of repentance, fasting, and reflection leading up to the celebration of Easter. For Christians, Lent represents the 40 days that Jesus spent in the wilderness, where he fasted and resisted temptation. Though celebrations vary by place and denomination, Lent is typically seen as a season for intentionally focusing on Jesus’s life, ministry, sacrifice, and resurrection.
To see more information about resources and events happening this month and throughout the semester, please visit our events page at www.diversity.uconn.edu/events.
Frank, Anne, and Jeff
Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer
Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs
Jeffrey F. Hines, MD
Associate Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer, UConn Health