Black History Month events honor past and future

Multicultural Student Services Center plans events with focus on student development, health and well-being

Sickle Cell Anemia Informational Session, Feb. 19

KINGSTON, R.I. – Feb. 5, 2024 – As part of Black History Month, the University of Rhode Island’s Multicultural Student Services Center (MSSC) is honoring the past as well as the future with several events, including those focused on student health, well-being, and educational and career development.

On Monday, Feb. 19, the MSSC is partnering with Rhode Island Blood Center and Uhuru Sasa to host an informational session on sickle cell disease. The event will be held in the MSSC’s Hardge Forum on the Kingston Campus from 4:30 to 6 p.m.

Sickle cell disease (SCD) is a group of inherited red blood cell disorders that can lead to a range of conditions, including acute anemia, tissue and organ damage, terrible pain and even stroke. While SCD affects millions of people worldwide, the exact number of people living with SCD in the U.S. is unknown. However, it is known to disproportionately affect Black Americans. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it is estimated that:

  • SCD affects approximately 100,000 Americans.
  • SCD occurs among about 1 out of every 365 Black or African-American births.
  • SCD occurs among about 1 out of every 16,300 Hispanic-American births.
  • About 1 in 13 Black or African-American babies is born with sickle cell trait (SCT).

As part of the event, several URI alumni living with SCD will speak about their experience with the disease. Additionally, alumna Janelle Amoako, ’15, ’21, a nurse with Lifespan Community Health Institute, a clinical faculty member for the College of Nursing’s Practicum in Public Health Nursing and a URI doctoral candidate, will discuss SCD from a medical perspective. 

“African Americans are disproportionately affected by sickle cell anemia–with 1 out of every 13 babies born with the trait–which can have a severe impact on their daily life. The purpose of this informational session is to raise awareness and serve as a precursor to our blood drive in March,” said Robert W. Britto-Oliveira, the MSCC’s assistant director. “We look forward to welcoming the community to learn more and to attend these events and others throughout February and March.”

Events planned by the MSSC throughout February and into March are detailed below. All events are free and open to members of the URI community.

Alumnus Matthew Aaron Quainoo ’15 will deliver the keynote at URI’s 2024 MLK Unity Luncheon, Feb. 7.

Wednesday, Feb. 7
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Unity Luncheon, 12 – 2 p.m.
Multicultural Student Services Center
University of Rhode Island alumnus, historian and community organizer Matthew Aaron Quainoo ’15, remembered for his stirring commencement address in 2015, will return to URI to speak about the legacy of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and how that can be applied today. Quainoo is now a minister and community leader at the Solid Rock Community Church in Kissimmee, Florida. He frequently partners with community organizations to address hunger, homelessness, and health disparities, and continues to work for non-partisan civil rights advocacy. He is also a scholar and frequent speaker on diversity, equity and inclusion and justice topics. Quainoo earned his master’s degree in theological studies at Princeton Theological Seminary and his Ph.D. in history from Howard University. While seating for this event is limited, it will also be livestreamed.

Premedical Pathways Informational Event and Recruitment Session, Feb. 13

Tuesday, Feb. 13
Premedical Pathways Recruitment Session, 5 – 6:30 p.m.
Multicultural Student Services Center
The MSSC is partnering with the Warren Alpert Medical School at Brown University to host a recruitment session for two of its premedical pathways programs this summer– Rhode to Medicine and Clinical/Research Experiences in Neurology and Neurosurgery. Both programs are geared toward underrepresented students who are interested in pursuing a career in science and medicine.

Luckson Omoaregba, ’16, ’18, director of Pathways Programs at the Alpert Medical School and a URI alum, will take part. He is eager to engage with and assist interested URI students in learning more about these opportunities. The event is being held in collaboration with URI’s multicultural student organization Black, Brown, Women in Engineering, Science and Technology Sisterhood.

B.U.I.L.D. Career and Networking Event, Feb. 21

Wednesday, Feb. 21
Building Unity & Inspired Leaders of the Diaspora (B.U.I.L.D.), 4 – 6 p.m.
Memorial Union Ballroom
Together with B.U.I.L.D. and URI’s Center for Career and Experiential Education, the MSSC is hosting a B.U.I.L.D. career and networking event to support underrepresented students at URI in their career journey.

The event will provide a space for BIPOC employers, leaders, and local community-based organizations to connect with scholars of color within the URI community on their career path and goals, to provide advice and guidance and to help them build momentum toward their respective career fields. Organizers aim to foster a sense of belonging and provide a safe space for students to engage in real conversations with employers and one another. 

Brothers United for Action 25-Year Commemoration, Feb. 29

Thursday, Feb. 29
Brothers United for Action 25th Anniversary Commemoration, 4:30 – 8 p.m.
Multicultural Student Services Center/Memorial Union, Ram’s Den
The MSSC and URI’s Talent Development Program will commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Brothers United for Action (BUA) student protests, which were touched off by the Good Five Cent Cigar’s 1998 publication of a cartoon that was perceived as racist. The resulting protests and Two Demands and Ten Points of Light developed by the BUA and presented to then-URI President Robert L. Carothers resulted in the hiring of diverse faculty and staff; financial support for students of color and disadvantaged backgrounds who were not admitted through Talent Development; and a diversified curriculum. These efforts have played a major part in helping to make it easier for underrepresented scholars at URI.

Blood Drive, March 5

Tuesday, March 5
Blood Drive, 12 — 5 p.m.
Multicultural Student Services Center, Hardge Forum
In collaboration with Uhuru Sasa and the Rhode Island Blood Center, the MSSC will host a blood drive as a follow-up to their Feb. 19 information session on sickle cell disease. According to the CDC, people living with SCD may require one or more blood transfusions during their lifetime. During a blood transfusion, an SCD patient’s blood must have matching antigens, or special proteins on the surface of each red blood cell, as the blood donation–making receiving blood donations from a variety of sources all the more important.

Individuals wishing to donate blood may make an appointment (sponsor code 5163). Walk-ins are also welcome.

Several University departments and groups are planning events and contributing to the 2024 URI celebration of Black History Month. Check the University calendar for new events and speakers as they are added.