The world comes together every year from February 1 and March 1 to honor Black History Month. It celebrates the culture of the African diaspora while commemorating the most important people and events in the community’s history.
For Kenyan-born Gayle Trisha Were, Black History Month is a time to laud the people who inspire her—those who have impacted their communities in positive ways. After spending her early years in South Africa, where she completed her advanced-level qualifications at the African Leadership Academy, Gayle discovered a burning passion for storytelling. She wanted to understand how “different narratives form how we see the world.” This ultimately inspired her 2020 move to Spain, where she decided to pursue her Bachelor in Communication & Digital Media at IE University.
Even before joining the innovative program, Gayle was already an accomplished visual artist. Her work has been exhibited in several prestigious venues, including at the Through The Lens Collective and August House—both in South Africa. In 2021, she was also featured on Google Arts & Culture as part of their Redefining Womanhood exhibition in an event hosted at her alma mater.
Gayle is now in the third year of her program and has managed to carve out her place within the IE Community. We recently had the chance to chat with Gayle, and as president of the IE Africa Club, she shares her insights into the importance of Black History Month and gives some helpful tips to help you commemorate it in meaningful ways.
When you hear ‘Black History Month’, what comes to mind?
Black History Month is a month-long annual observance held to remember key figures in our collective history, such as Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, Bessie Coleman and more. It is officially observed in the US, Canada, the UK and Ireland. It’s also celebrated in some European countries like Germany.
Throughout the month, we honor the significant contributions made by our forefathers. In our case, we take this time to remember Black change-makers from across the globe as we believe that, to truly drive change, it is important to know, learn and empathize with the history of Black peoples’ struggle to forge a more diverse and inclusive world.
This Black History Month, which historical figure inspires you the most and why?
I am inspired by many Black women who defied societal expectations and forged new paths for their communities: Winnie Madikizela-Mandela immediately comes to mind. Unknown to many, while Nelson Mandela and other freedom fighters were imprisoned, she and other women in the resistance movement were instrumental in the fight for independence in South Africa. I admire her for her courage, resilience and, above all, her love and sacrifice for her people and her beliefs.
These traits are also displayed by Kenyan environmentalist & Nobel Peace Prize laureate Wangarĩ Maathai. She is renowned for her advocacy to safeguard green spaces in the country and also championed women’s rights in the national parliament.
Tell us more about the IE Africa Club.
We are a group of students who are affiliated with the African continent. Our members include African and Afro-descendant students, as well as non-Black students who have lived on the continent. We seek to form a community based on our shared experiences. Our mission is to demystify stereotypes that exist about Africa and share our rich culture, along with the myriad opportunities the continent offers.
How does IE University support the IE Africa Club in celebrating Black History Month?
IE University offers a wide range of different Clubs to discover and participate. The IE Africa Club hopes to embrace the spirit of the month by hosting a series of events that discuss Black history and voices from around the world. These events are an important way for us to remember the key players in the liberation of Black people. By celebrating Black excellence this month, we want to create space for discourse that is not typically held at IE University, in order to educate the community about these historical people and events and how they have shaped our world today.
This Black History Month, we’ll hold a number of events to explore Black history in Spain and the diaspora at large. We will also delve into salient Black civil movements and the importance of diversity through the experiences of Black professionals working here in Spain.
Storytelling is an integral part of the human experience and it’s how we have evolved and adapted. And by learning to create stories that move people, we can change the perceptions that exist about the world.
What are some meaningful ways students can celebrate Black History Month?
Our strength as a community lies in our diversity. This month is an opportunity for the IE Community to empathize with the realities of being a BIPOC in the western world. One of my professors once said that empathy begins with curiosity, so I implore students to engage with the different events hosted by the IE Africa Club and take this time to learn.
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