Black History Month Black Health and Wellness Strong – Balance, Love, Alert, Cherish, Knowledge

January 24, 2022

SIU celebrates Black History Month with guest speakers, events

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Dr. Ngozi Ezike, the first Black woman to lead the 145-year-old Illinois Department of Public Health, is the special guest speaker as Southern Illinois University Carbondale kicks off Black History Month on Feb. 1.

The hybrid event is at 5 p.m. in Morris Library’s John C. Guyon Auditorium, with Ezike’s presentation happening virtually. The public is invited to attend in person or through Zoom. Advance registration is suggested for who plan to attend the virtual webinar presentation.

A board-certified internist and pediatrician, Ezike has led the IDPH since 2019. SIU Carbondale awarded Ezike an honorary Doctor of Community Health degree in May 2021 for her efforts in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic. Prior to joining the IDPH, Ezike served for more than 15 years with Cook County Health as medical director at the Juvenile Detention Center and as medical director for the Austin Health Center. Ezike earned her medical degree from the University of California at San Diego and a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Harvard University.

The complete Black History Month schedule, along with additional information is online at

Diverse events mark the celebration

A wide array of events throughout the month, both on campus and virtually, will recognize the accomplishments of the Black community and the importance of striving toward a more inclusive future, according to organizers. The history month theme, “Black Health and Wellness Strong – Balance, Love, Alert, Cherish, Knowledge,” provides a great opportunity to “focus on our health, now more than ever, and also to highlight the many accomplishments and achievements that Blacks and African Americans have made in the health field,” said Charah McKinzie, coordinator of SIU’s Black Resource Center.

 “I love the Russell Ledet quote that says ‘We are our ancestors’ wildest dreams.’ I love it because there used to be a time when becoming a Black doctor, engineer, scientist etc., was just a dream,” McKinzie said. “We’ve come a long way but there is still much work to be done. I am honored to celebrate and recognize the courage and sacrifices our ancestors have made and I look forward to an even better future.”

Blacks in STEM fields

Wendell O’Neal, a board-certified clinical chemist will be part of “Blacks in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Presentation and Art Exhibit” at 4 p.m., Feb. 10. The hybrid event will take place in University Museum in Faner Hall and also via Zoom.

O’Neal will discuss the importance of STEM involvement for Black students and touch on the impact of “The Flying Black Medics,” a group of medical practitioners who provided quality health care Cairo, Illinois-area residents after the Civil Rights era. O’Neal earned his bachelor’s degree in chemistry from SIU and is a 2014 inductee in the now School of Chemical and Biomolecular Sciences Hall of Fame. O’Neal operates The WHISK Group, a consulting practice assisting hospital systems and clinical laboratories with strategy, structure and efficiency, and has worked extensively with clinical laboratory and STEM-related organizations to foster STEM participation by students.

The Zoom presentation in the museum is free, and participants should also register in advance to participate virtually from another location.

Breaking into the music industry

Scholar, educator and hip-hop practitioner Jason Rawls will share his tips for breaking into this competitive field when he presents “HIP HOP: Tools of the Trade” at 5 p.m., Feb. 8, in Morris Library’s Guyon Auditorium.  The event is free and open to the public.

An associate professor of instruction at Ohio University, Rawls helped produce the critically acclaimed 1998 album, “Mos Def & Talib Kweli Are Black Star,” which played a role in the era’s underground hip-hop explosion. He has also produced for and served as DJ for artists including the Beastie Boys, Ghostface of WuTang Clan, Capital Steez, Pro Era, Slum Village, Souls of Mischief, 9th Wonder and Us3.

Rawls also lectures at Ohio State University and Columbus College of Art & Design. He holds an educational doctorate in educational administration from Ohio University, a master’s degree in education from Ashland University and a bachelor’s degree in business from the University of Cincinnati. He is the co-author of “Youth Culture Power: A #HipHopEd Guide to Building Teacher-Student Relationships and Increasing Student Engagement” and is co-writing the first hip-hop-based education program through Ohio University’s Patton College of Education.

Join the commemoration

Numerous other activities are planned throughout the month including a family movie night, panel discussions, health fair, the Tunnel of Oppression, Afrocentric Fashion Show, Black History Scholar Bowl, Black graduate luncheon and much more. Most of the events are open to the public and free.

For more information, email the Black Resource Center at or call 618-453-3470.

Black History Month sponsors include the Black Resource Center, Vice Chancellor for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, College of Business and Analytics and the college’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion, New Student Programs, Student Affairs, Student Programming Council, Black Affairs Council, TRIO Student Support Services, Black Affairs Council, Kappa Alpha Psi and Omega Delta Phi fraternities, University Museum, Black Togetherness Organization, the African American Museum of Southern Illinois, the Black Chamber of Commerce of Southern Illinois, Carbondale United, Dentmon Center, the NAACP, Sacral Space for Women and the Black History Month Planning Committee.