OBU kicks off Black History Month, welcomes New Assistant Dean of Students

Alyssa Sperrazza, News Editor

Students piled into the dimly-lit theatre, eagerly escaping the piles of homework awaiting upon their return to reality, as OBU kicked off a month long celebration of Black History Month. Hosting a night at the Jones Theatre on Harrison, OBU welcomed students and faculty to a showing of the Oscar nominated film, Hidden Figures.

Colin Crawford and Tyre Terry share snacks at the movie theatre. / Preston Morris, The Bison

The film follows the untold stories of three African American women who worked for NASA to help get John Glenn into Space.

“I loved the movie,” OBU Junior, Alexa Rutledge said. “It showcased the strength and integrity these women had. They pushed boundaries with quiet strength. It was beautiful and encouraging to see.”

A new face was among the faculty checking students into the theatre, who has helped put this month-long celebration together: new Assistant Dean of Students: Diversity and Multicultural Student Services, Jonathan Solomon.

One of thirteen kids, Solomon was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, but he is no stranger to Oklahoma.

“It’s good to be back in Oklahoma,” Solomon said. “My wife is from Oklahoma City and we’re just happy to be back around family, a supportive environment and just a genuine niceness of being down South.”

He completed his undergraduate at Langston University and attended graduate school at the University of Oklahoma.

“I am coming to OBU from Detroit, Michigan, where I’ve been for the last two and a half years,” Solomon said. “So I’ve been working in higher education for a number of years now.”

Working with students is a passion for Solomon, who worked previously in Detroit as the Assistant Director for the Upward Bound program.

Jonathan Solomon / Courtesy Photo, Oklahoma Baptist University

“[The job entailed] working with low-income and first generation high school students [by] helping them get to college, helping them navigate the entire college process and exposing them to college and exposing them to just a different life,” Solomon explained. “Most of the students I worked with in Detroit experience extreme poverty, so just taking them out of that and exposing them to college is something really good.”

Transitioning onto Bison Hill, Solomon is settling into his new position, with the same goal of helping students achieve.

“There are two main components that this job entails,” Solomon said. “One of them is being that supporter for students of color, for students from different ethnic backgrounds, international students, our missionary kids, our third culture kids as well as students who are traditionally marginalized. That would include our veteran students and students with disabilities.”

Along with making sure students feel safe and accepted, educating everyone is a goal as well.

“Another component to [the job] is encompassing the entire student body,” Solomon said. “Being a person who can educate the student body on diversity, what that is and why it’s important to all of us as well as putting together events and programs where I can expose the student body to multiethnic education.”

Solomon wants to push Black History Month to it’s fullest potential, making sure students have the opportunity to be educated throughout the month.

“What I’ve been doing is working together with a number of different faculty and staff who already had some things in place,” Solomon said, “and then broadcasting these events and utilizing them as an opportunity for students to learn more about black culture.”

Students have already enjoyed the showing of Hidden Figures as well as a faculty meet and greet.

thumbnail_BHMPoster.jpg“I love that OBU is involving the whole campus in celebrating Black History Month,” Rutledge said. “It is important that we never stop learning about the men and women who have changed and are actively changing the world. I appreciate OBU bringing this to light”

Bringing inspiring people to light is exactly what Solomon hopes to achieve, as he continually works to educate the community here at OBU.

“Everything that we’re doing, even though a lot of the events are going to be fun, there’s a message behind it,” Solomon said. “One of the best ways, in terms of diversity, to be engaged, is to continuously try to educate yourself.”

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