Q+A: David Swope, COD’s diversity chief talks about Black History Month


Alison Pfaff

Diversity and Inclusion Manager, David Swope

Vandy Manyeh, News Editor

College of DuPage will celebrate Black History Month beginning Feb. 1. David Swope, the college’s diversity and inclusion manager, is leading the organization of upcoming events and activities celebrating Black history, by extension, American history. What does this mean for COD? Swope sat down for a question and answer with the Courier.

Vandy Manyeh: How important is Black History Month to COD?

David Swope: I believe that the month is important to the college because it helps to expand on teaching and learning, which is what the college is here to promote. A big part of American history is the impact that Black culture has had on American history so that we have a better understanding of all of the things that have impacted what we do, and who we are as a group of people. The college has done a fantastic job at providing that offering for this teaching and learning aspect of Black history.

VM: How important is Black History Month to you as a person?

DS: It is really interesting. Should we really have Black History Month? Well, maybe, not. Why is it important? Maybe because all aspects of black culture aren’t taught in its holistic form. We need curriculums that teach about a certain aspect of history. One example is when the movie Hidden Figures came out; it taught us about an African-American woman that was instrumental in sending men to orbit the moon. We haven’t heard much about that history until that movie came out. I think for us to understand all of America’s history, we must have certain aspects of history highlighted. Some of those key parts of history is the contributions of African-Americans. Until that’s done in a curriculum where everybody is getting a better understanding, I think it is important to me personally that we recognize Black History Month for the contributions, efforts and sacrifices that a particular culture has made.

VM: What does the college hope to achieve at the end of this celebration?

DS: One of the things we are going to do for this particular year is placing an emphasis on the national theme, which is: African-Americans in times of war. For this month, I hope people learn about men and women in service; how times of war and peace have impacted the culture of people and the contributions from a military standpoint, or from a non-military standpoint that have impacted some of our ideas and freedoms. I hope we will be able to learn, teach, share and celebrate this part of history.

VM: What does the college do to celebrate Black History Month?

DS: This year, we are going to have a wide array of events that come from the planning of various campus and community departments. Faculty and staff are a part of the planning as well. There’s a whole list of activities that you can find on the website (www.cod.edu/csdi). We will have an opening ceremony and a photo exhibit that illustrates a certain aspect of African-Americans in times of war and peace. On Feb. 19, we will have a panel discussion that is going to feature three of our faculty and staff, a member of the community and a student. They are African-Americans who are veterans, or currently serving. This panel will be moderated by President Ann Rondeau. Marcia Anderson will be our special guest on that panel. Anderson is the first African-American woman to have the rank of Major General in the U.S. Armed Forces. Faheem Majeed will have an exhibit at the Cleve Carney Art Gallery. He will also do a lecture. Vicki Clark, a woman in the field of diversity, will give a lecture. We will have Rodney Walker, a graduate of Yale University, who has a fantastic story to tell. At the end of the month, we will have a celebratory program; we have an opportunity for students to participate in an art and literature competition. The African-American Dance Institute (AADI) will be here to perform and teach classes about their instruments.

VM: How aware is the entire college about this celebration?

DS: I have a lot of printed materials where students can see every activity and event. We are doing a global email to students. Student Life has been instrumental in uploading things on ChapLife. Also, departments and organizations at the college will post information on their social media pages. Our goal is to make sure that students are engaged in the process. The Black Student Alliance is engaged in this process; they have three events planned for the month.