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Black History Month 2021

Black History Month Banner

This year's events will be held entirely virtually. Note, most of the events are intended for the FIT community only (students, staff, faculty, and alumni), unless indicated otherwise. 

illustration of different colored silhouettes

The Black Family: Representation, Identity, and Diversity

The Black family has been a topic of study in many disciplines—history, literature, the visual arts and film studies, sociology, anthropology, and social policy. Its representation, identity, and diversity have been reverenced, stereotyped, and vilified from the days of slavery to our own time. The Black family knows no single location, since family reunions and genetic-ancestry searches testify to the spread of family members across states, nations, and continents. 

While the role of the Black family has been described as a microcosm of the entire race, its complexity as the “foundation” of African American life and history can be seen in numerous debates over how to represent its meaning from a historical perspective—as slave or free, as patriarchal or matriarchal/matrifocal, as single-headed or dual-headed household, as extended or nuclear, as fictive kin or blood lineage, as legal or common law, and as Black or interracial. Variation also appears in discussions on the nature and impact of parenting, childhood, marriage, gender norms, sexuality, and incarceration. The family offers a rich tapestry of images for exploring the African American past and present. (From the Association for the Study of African American Life and History)



Virtual Visit: NYS Harlem Art Collection

Alfredo Valente

Alfredo Valente. Jacob Lawrence, 1957. Alfredo Valente papers, 1941–1978.

Explore the artwork of the New York State Harlem Art Collection.


Friday, Feb. 19, 6 pm

BRAG alumni are coming home to discuss their professional careers after graduating from FIT.

Monday–Friday, Feb. 22–26, noon–2 pm

Black-owned businesses will share their journeys in creating their businesses and give advice for young Black entrepreneurs.



Monday, Feb. 22, 11 am–noon

Download Activity Instructions (.PDF)

Steven Johnson, adjunct faculty, Fine Arts

A guided cross-cultural and cross-generational drawing activity.

body + vision: dream mapping, envisioning, and decolonizing the imagination

Tuesday, Feb. 23, 11 am–noon

Download Activity Instructions (.PDF)

Steven Johnson, adjunct faculty, Fine Arts

A guided cross-cultural and cross-generational drawing and listening activity.

UCE of FIT: Racial justice, activism, and jim crow imagery (Open to the Public) 

Tuesday, Feb. 23, 5:30–7 pm

Dr. Michael Jeffries, dean of Academic Affairs, Wellesley College
Dr. David Pilgrim, founder and creator of the Jim Crow Museum

body, spirit, and Reflection: embracing and metabolizing otherness 

Wednesday, Feb. 24, 11 am–noon

Download Activity Instructions (.PDF)

Steven Johnson, adjunct faculty, Fine Arts

A guided cross-cultural and cross-generational drawing and connecting activity.

maafa reading/dedication and visuals of the transatlantic slave trade

This event has been canceled.

Wednesday, Feb. 24, 4–5 pm

Maafa—the Kiswahili word for "calamity" or "catastrophe"—is the term used for the African holocaust of 10 million slaves who were killed in the transatlantic slave trade in America. Please join us for a virtual commemoration to honor those who lost their lives.

virtual concert of the harlem opera theater

Wednesday, Feb. 24, 6–8 pm

Yasemin Celik Levine and Paul Clement

The Presidential Scholars Program is collaborating with the African American and Africana Studies minor to host a virtual concert of the Harlem Opera Theater. They will be presenting a concert titled "Black in Opera," and then doing a talk-back with the director, Professor Gregory Hopkins, and selected performers.

The Rich legacy of the black extended Family from slavery to the present

Thursday, Feb. 25, 1–2 pm

Shawn Grain Carter, associate professor, Fashion Business Management; Laticha Brown, assistant professor and assistant chair, Fashion Business Management.

back to the present virtual artist talk

Thursday, Feb. 25, 1–2 pm: Virtual Artist Talks with BSU x Art and Design Gallery

Five to seven artists featured in the Back to the Present exhibition will be featured. They will speak about their work and tell attendees about themselves and their practice.


Stella Jean in Conversation with Valerie Steele

Thursday, Feb. 25, 6 pm:  EVENT DETAILS

The Museum at FIT presents a discussion with Stella Jean, the Italian-Haitian fashion designer, and Dr. Valerie Steele, director of MFIT. They will discuss how to expand diversity in the Italian fashion system. Stella Jean, whose clients include Rihanna and Beyoncé, collaborates with artisans in Africa and Haiti, and has been an advocate for Black designers in Italy.

black entrepreneurship: a mother-daughter conversation

Event was on Thursday, Feb. 25, 7–8 pm. Watch on-demand.

Moderated by Elena Romero, assistant professor, Advertising and Marketing Communications
Panelists: Shara McHayle and Jade Everett, founders of Hoop 88 Dreams

Meet the mother-daughter team behind the new jewelry brand Hoop 88 Dreams launched August 2019. They’ll discuss Black entrepreneurship, family and business, and brand-building strategies necessary to develop and sustain a successful jewelry business.

Globally connected at FIT with alumna jo-well Paupaw

BSU Globally Connected at FIT

Friday, Feb. 26, 12:15–1 pm

Presented by the Black Student Union 
Hosted by the Office of International Programs, History of Art, and the Cultural Fellows program

Join Cultural Fellow Anya Swapp as she introduces Black Student Union Vice President Ashleigh Simpson in an interview with Jo-Well Paupaw, senior writer and producer for Black Entertainment Television and Advertising and Marketing Communications alum. While exploring some concepts within the BSU’s Back to the Present exhibition, parallels are drawn to Jo-Well Paupaw's career journey. Through this conversation, they will discuss the importance of Blackness in creative industries like fashion and entertainment, while finding a likeness in their work. Learn more about the Globally Connected at FIT series.

soulful cooking with essence k. white

Essential Eats banner

Friday, Feb. 26, 6:30–8 pm

Join the Black History Month Committee along with the FIT community for a soul food cooking session with Essence K. White. Check her out on Instagram @essentialeats.experience and on her website, Essential Eats Experience.

Ingredients can be found by clicking here.

BSU Virtual Gallery




Powered by the Black Student Union (BSU) at FIT, the Back to the Present virtual exhibition conveys comparisons between activism, police brutality, and racism from the 1960s to 2020 through art submitted from all over the country. Not only did the curators want to invoke a feeling of shock and disbelief on how similar photos, videos, and art look from the two time periods, but they also wanted to bring an element of fashion, music, and pop culture into the exhibition.
Back to the Present is curated by the BSU’s Joi Berry, Communications Design AAS ‘21; Ashleigh Simpson, Fashion Design AAS ‘21; and Kia Ward, Textile/Surface Design BFA ‘21.
This virtual exhibition is hosted by the Art and Design Gallery at FIT and is also sponsored by the Diversity Council of FIT as part of its Black History Month activities.


Black History Month Opening Program and Keynote Address 

Wednesday, Feb. 3, 12:30–2 pm

Greetings from Dr. Joyce F. Brown, President of the Fashion Institute of Technology

Black National Anthem

Keynote Speaker Piper Anderson, founder and president of Create Forward; introduced by Dr. Ron Milon, Chief Diversity Officer. Anderson's talk followed by a Q&A.

Missed the event? Video recording available of the full event:

Monday, Feb. 1: Virtual Exhibition Opens

Thursday, Feb. 4, 1–2 pm: Virtual Opening Reception 

Curators will come and speak about the exhibition, what it was like curating the exhibition virtually and run through the content and design of the exhibition. 

Racism and Structural Change

Thursday, Feb. 4, 4–5 pm

Dr. Ron Milon and Taur Orange

Structural racism—the normalized and legitimized range of policies, practices, and attitudes that routinely produce cumulative chronic adverse outcomes for people of color—is the main driver of racial inequality in America today. This presentation will present information on the origins of systematic racism in this country and what we can do to change it both short and long term. Please note that this session is not part of the Diversity Ambassador Program. 


Wednesday, Feb. 10, 9–10 am

The council invites all members of the FIT community to a virtual meeting to ask questions, make suggestions, and find out more about the activities and initiatives of the Diversity Council.

how to talk about race: white fragility

Thursday, Feb. 11, 3–4 pm

Dr. Ron Milon and Taur Orange

Talking about race, although hard, is necessary. "How to Talk About Race" is a presentation based on Robin DiAngelo’s book White Fragility. The presentation will discuss ways to have true discussion about race and how we can work to change our biases and come up with new rules for positive engagement and change. Please note that this session is not part of the Diversity Ambassador Program.


3rd annual digital fashion summit

Harlem fashion row

Thursday, Feb. 18, 9 am–5 pm: See the full schedule and register at Harlem's Fashion Row.

Moving beyond the black box. A new conversation about race and fashion. 

FIT President Joyce F. Brown will appear at 11:40 am. 

back to the present virtual artist talk

Thursday, Feb. 18, 1–2 pm: Virtual Artist Talks with BSU x Art and Design Gallery

Five to seven artists featured in the Back to the Present exhibition will be featured. They will speak about their work and tell attendees about themselves and their practice.