Black History Month: UMaine Announces Plan for Scholarship Fund

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ORONO, Maine (WABI) - Since 1976, every American President has designated February as Black History Month.

The University of Maine began its month-long celebration Thursday, with an announcement they hope will change the narrative of racial equality.

"This is something that we should all celebrate."

Just outside the Memorial Union at the University of Maine, a Black Lives Matter flag was raised, one of only a few campuses in the nation to do so.

"Growing up in the county, Black History Month was one of the only times where my education included black people."

Black Student Union President Kirsten Daley delivered an impassioned speech to students, faculty and community members, marking the beginning of Black History Month in Orono.

"A remembrance of our past and how it affects us today, but also a celebration of all of the amazing things our community has done."

With the help and support of The University Foundation, the Black Student Union announced Thursday a plan to create a scholarship fund for black leaders of color on this campus.

A move students hope will ensure change and respect for future generations attending UMaine.

"I was at an institution that did not observe Black History month, let alone celebrate it. I used to skip school and call into work on MLK day, so I could come to the MLK Breakfast here on campus."

Artist activist, Eleanor Kipping shared her experiences with racial inequality.

"Now my mentors, these were the ones who were supposed to be helping me break into a predominately white, male dominated field, used to think that it was cute and funny to call me Aunt Jemima."

Now a Master of Fine Arts candidate at the University, Kipping was inspired to create the Brown paper bag test, a multi-site installation celebrating Black History Month.

"I started this work back in 2016, and right now there are 15 portraits across the campus in seven different locations. And what you'll see are photographs of women of color who I have interviewed. It's really important to not take organizations and efforts like this for granted. Regardless of your background, regardless of what color you are, or what race you are."

Women like Kipping and Daley hope to challenge people to be more inclusive every day.

"We hope you will take this pledge with us and stop celebrating black history for 29 days, but 365."