SPEED gears up for Black History Month and spring semester with new board

by Santino Torres / Staff Reporter

Flyer for Black History Month events at Roosevelt. Flyer by Emily Alvelo

Roosevelt University’s Student Programming for Enrichment, Enlightenment and Development (SPEED) is preparing to celebrate Black History Month with numerous upcoming events in February. With almost an entirely new board this semester, SPEED took on the challenge of coordinate these events which will all be in virtual format.

The only holdover from last semester’s SPEED board is senior psychology major Vanessa Ayala, who is now chair of the board.

“SPEED has been such a big part of my life because I’ve grown a lot with them,” Ayala said. “I’ve had the opportunity to plan events that are kind of tailored to what I like and what I want to do in the future.”

Ayala helped to organize the Blood Drive for Blood Cancer Awareness Month in late September. SPEED plans to retain the blood drive for next school year.

The new SPEED board consists of Ayala, two juniors, a sophomore and a freshman. Aditi Vala, a freshman biology major, will be taking over SPEED’s social media platforms as their new marketing and social media coordinator.

“When I first came here, there was an event for Build-A-Bear that SPEED did, and I was really intrigued by it,” Vala recalled. “I joined [SPEED] as a general member and then I applied to be the social media marketer.”

Another addition to the SPEED board is sophomore classical performance major Jaila Carr. “I am in charge of the people that come to volunteer for SPEED,” said Carr. 

As the new volunteer and recruitment coordinator, Carr will be hosting three recruitment and volunteer events which she says will inform students about SPEED, and how they can get involved at Roosevelt. Students who are interested can check into these events on Feb. 23, Mar. 9 and Mar. 25, with each event beginning at 6:30pm.

Junior criminal justice major Jose Morales is the new logistics and assessment coordinator for SPEED. He said his position with SPEED will serve as a new experience for him.

“I definitely set up a new goal to set for myself an example to be more active at school, joining new clubs,” he said. “This is actually my very first time that I’ve actually joined a club at school. I never really joined a club at school all throughout high school.”

Jessica Garcia, a junior international studies major, took on a new position as the university collaborator and outreach coordinator. Student organizations or other departments that are interested in collaborating with SPEED to coordinate and host an event can reach out to Garcia for their prospective ideas.

“We’re pretty much open to collaborate with anyone on whatever event they want,” Garcia said. “My job is to reach out to different clubs or organizations that SPEED can collaborate with to see if we can do an event together, just so events can reach out to more students and include different students from different backgrounds.”

After the success of fall events such as Build-A-Bear, the virtual talent show ‘RU’s Got Talent,’ the ‘RU Nailed It’ cookie decorating contest and the virtual concert in December, SPEED now looks to the spring as they prepare to host events in celebration of Black History Month. SPEED has already hosted a Black Music and Resilience event with DJ Kels, who went into detail about the history of Black music and its impact over the years in culture, as well as providing a short trivia contest for the participants.

Ayala made mention of the ‘From Seed to Plate’ event featuring Candace Taylor of Conscious Homestead on Feb. 10. Vala planned the cooking event on food sovereignty and resiliency, which will examine the history of collard greens.

“It’s actually my first event that I’m hosting,” Vala said. “[Taylor] is going to be showing us the history and resiliency and how to cook [collard greens].”

Ilyasah Shabazz will deliver an address on the History of Resiliency of Black People. Flyer courtesy of SPEED.

On Feb. 24, Carr will host the event, “Balancing the Scales.” The event will feature award-winning spoken word artist and Chicago native Ashlee Haze. Carr was enthused by the event’s ability to serve as a liaison between the two celebratory months of February and March, which is Women’s History Month. She said the event is a workshop on conversations regarding social justice and race.

According to Bass/Schuler Entertainment’s description of the workshop, “Haze explores the makings of identity and how folks of historically marginalized identities can find our voices in a cis/white/hetero-centered world.” 

Carr believes the workshop, which features an exploration of the word ‘privilege,’ is a conversation that is needed. “We need to talk about things that make people uncomfortable,” Carr said.

There are also going to be other events held by different organizations in celebration of Black History Month. The Center for Student Involvement (CSI), Dean of Students Office and Black Student Union (BSU) are all holding events this month. BSU has a couple of events sponsored by the Student Activity Fee Allocation Committee (SAFAC), while all of CSI’s events are sponsored by SPEED except for the History of the Divine Nine event, which they are co-hosting with the Greek Life Round Table.

The SPEED board said they were enthused by the annual Social Justice Week, slated to begin the week of March 22-26. According to Ayala, the planning process for this Roosevelt tradition is currently underway.

“We’re very excited for that,” Ayala said. “Every year, we have a different theme. This year, we’re still not 100% sure of the theme, but we’re very excited to continue it. I think it might surround overall well-being, mental or physical.”

Despite Social Justice Week falling in March, Garcia did not indicate whether an event during Social Justice Week will infuse the two themes of social justice and Women’s History Month together.

“We’re just trying to see what other issues that we could speak up on, but I think Social Justice Week is going to be separate from Women’s History [Month],” Garcia said.

Despite holding mostly virtual events this spring semester, SPEED has enjoyed plenty of success in the coordination and promotion of these events and allowing them to gauge student interest. With an array of events that appeal to the theme of Black History Month, SPEED looks forward to yet another successful semester in enriching student lives at Roosevelt.  “A lot of people really like to go to in-person stuff. Regarding everything going on, we have to do what we have to do,” Morales said. “We’re trying our best to make it as fun as possible.”

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