SALINE COUNTY – February is recognized as Black History Month, and one Southeastern Illinois College program director says it's an important part of cultural enrichment at the campus east of Harrisburg.
Lolita L. Mack is director of SIC's TRIO program, which is part of the U.S. Department of Education's efforts to help colleges with graduation rates, retention rates and successfully transferring students to a four-year degree program.
Mack said the program is designed to help people who fall into at least one of three categories: a first generation college student, a person who meets certain income qualifications set by the Department of Education, and a person with a documented disability.
"They can meet one or all three, any combination of those criteria," Mack said.
Mack, who originally is from Carbondale and now lives in Marion, said she's been involved with the TRIO program during the bulk of her academic life.
"I am a former TRIO student. I worked for the program in college, in graduate school and after college – so I am TRIO," Mack said, with a laugh.
Mack became SIC's TRIO director in May of 2011, and spends all of her professional time working both for and with the 165 students her program serves. One portion of the program is cultural enrichment, and that's where Black History Month comes in. She recently put together the college's display honoring the month, which features many various Americans of African descent who have played a significant role in American history. There also are items such as bookmarks and erasers that students may take with them as a reminder of the month and those it honors.
But, a simple static display won't be the only part of cultural enrichment for the month, she said.
"Near the end of Black History Month, we will have a step show in the theater/lecture hall," she said.
A step show is a form of percussive dance, in which a person's entire body is used to produce complex rhythms and sounds. It traditionally is a part of African-American Greek fraternity culture, and was the focus of the 2007 film "Stomp the Yard."
At SIC's event, which is 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 23, several Greek black organzations from various schools will give step performances, along with a special guest.
"We have a comedian to host that event and to make it even more entertaining," Mack said.
T Murph, the comedian and entertainer, will be traveling from Chicago to the event, she said.
"He'll do some comedy and we'll have some performances," she said. "We hope to have between 3 and 7 organizations do performances. Three of them are totally confirmed, and we have room for up to seven."
For more information, visit SIC's TRIO page at http://www.sic.edu/student-services/trio-student-support-services.