Eckerd College’s Afro-American Society (AAS), the longest-running student club at the College, began its Black History Month celebration with an official kickoff and the lecture “This Is Us: Past, Present, and Future,” by Katurah Jenkins-Hall, Ph.D., who teaches a course in human development.
Throughout the presentation, Jenkins-Hall shared some of her personal experiences and history, introducing her audience to parts of Black history that often have been overlooked and calling everyone to explore their own history and connect mind, body and spirit.
“All of us are products of our past, our present and our future,” Jenkins-Hall told the crowd of about 60 gathered in the Dan and Mary Miller Auditorium on Feb. 3. “I want people to understand that our past is our present and speaks to where our future will be.”
Experience has greatly influenced Jenkins-Hall’s philosophy. She has served as chair on the Board of the Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg and helped found Legacy-56, a group dedicated to the preservation and protection of African American communities, history and culture in the area. She also previously taught at the University of South Florida for over 30 years and is a licensed clinical psychologist.
Currently, Jenkins-Hall teaches the Eckerd course Health Equity and Social Justice, which focuses on “the nature of health (bio/psycho/socio/spiritual), structural racism, gender and religious biases, and human rights to equal resources that lead to a healthy life.” The course aims to teach students about health disparities within the community and how students can counteract and combat that inequality. Jenkins-Hall was inspired to teach this course after extensive community work during the coronavirus pandemic and the murder of George Floyd. After struggling to raise awareness and volunteers for both intertwined issues, she decided to resume teaching.
“Dual pandemics hit at the same time … Everybody needed to know as much as possible to get us back into equilibrium,” Jenkins-Hall said.
AAS will continue celebrating Black History Month with a variety of events multiple times a week, from tea parties to trivia to educational presentations. This year’s theme is Afrofuturism. Aryelle Lipscomb, a senior biology student from Nashville and president of AAS, worked tirelessly with club officers to create events around this theme.
“I really like the idea of looking towards the future; Blackness, Black people, Black culture, but I wanted it to have something more defined,” Lipscomb says. “We’re trying to bring in some other types of ways for students to get involved with Black and African history without having to sit through a class that they may or may not want to take.”
Another Black History Month virtual presentation, titled “Our Future Is in the Present,” will feature Ericka Huggins—a poet, an activist and a Black Panther Party organizer—on Feb. 17. For a full listing of events, follow the club at ecafrosociety on Instagram.