Heritage & History Awareness

Black rectangle with a green, yellow, and red border. White bold text centered. Text reads: SAIC Honors, and Black Heritage Month below.


SAIC Honors | Black Heritage Month

The School of the Art Institute of Chicago joins the country to honor the history, achievements, and legacies of Black and African Americans for Black History Month. SAIC recognizes this annual period as Black Heritage Month, as it is dedicated to understanding Black humanity and legacy in the past, present, and future. 

The 2023 Theme is Black Excellence, Black Wellness

What is Black Excellence? Defined in many ways, the Black Excellence Network defines Black Excellence as 'the prosperity and positive accomplishments of people within the Black Community." There is a need for celebrating Black Excellence, for recognizing the often downplayed accomplishments of those identifying as Black or African American, and for bringing visibility to the many ways Black and African Americans improve our societies. 

Black excellence is not only reserved for the paragons of our national history, but Black excellence is also living authentically in a world that is designed to suppress Black advancement. As we honor Black heritage in this and all future months, let’s transform how we define Black excellence. Let’s recognize that there is excellence in both the world-changing accomplishments of Black and African Americans as well as the everyday actions. Black living and thriving in this world is the definition of excellence. 

*This page continues to stay updated. If you’re aware of other events and would like to promote them, or if you have ideas for events, contact  kvaler@saic.eduCheck back for more events!  




Black America Since MLK: And Still I Rise

The Cultural Oasis: A Space by and for students of color, Sullivan 1425
Monday, January 30, 4:00 p.m.–5:30 p.m. - Part 3: Keep Your Head Up 
Monday, February 6, 4:00 p.m.–5:30 p.m. - Part 4: Touch the Sky

Organized by Multicultural Affairs, this program features a four-part documentary series narrating the last five decades of African American history. The documentary follows historian Henry Louis Gates, Jr. as he reflects on the state of Black America—and the US as a whole. Over the course of Gates’ journey, he is joined by leading scholars, celebrities, and other prominent figures of today’s culture. Each week we will feature an episode of this series followed by a reflection discussion and exercise. All events can be accessed virtually here OR in-person at the Cultural Oasis (Sullivan 1425). This event will be captioned. Persons with disabilities requesting accommodations should visit saic.edu/access.

Click here for more information about the documentary. More information can be found here on Engage.


Black Heritage Month Call for Entries

The Heritage Awareness Programs and Initiatives (HAPI) Committee, in collaboration with INCUBATOR, is welcoming students to submit work for an exhibition in honor of Black Heritage Month. Submissions are open to all Black-identifying SAIC students. This student-curated exhibition will showcase art that uplifts the Black joy, culture, artistry, resistance, healing, leadership, and brilliance that shape our communities.

Programs and initiatives organized year-long by the HAPI Committee elevate the brilliance of Black and African American people who are at the heart of our national narrative. In commemorating Black Heritage Month, we are bringing visibility to the narratives, experiences, and legacies of Black and African Americans.

Deadline to apply: February 6

Installation Dates: February 13–18

Exhibition Dates: February 20–March 3

To apply via Slideroom, click here.


Let's Build the World: Black Design As Collaborative Practice

Curated by Schetauna Powell, lead designer Artivism Community Art, LLC
John M. Flaxman Library, 6th Floor Exhibition Cases 
37 S. Wabash Ave., second floor
February 14–March 18

When desegregation began, design focused education that was available for white students through the use of toys was simply not offered to Black students whose experience in the American educational system has been defined by divestment and segregation. This exhibit reconsiders the place Blackness occupies in the context of educational toys - instead of locating Blackness within systemic problems, it considers Black design as the progenitor of a complex system of thought. This exhibit suggests that studying the building blocks of Black culture can reposition Black production of knowledge as a collaborative practice that invites us to live in tandem with other ways of being and call into question, struggle against, critique, and undo prevailing racist scripts




John M. Flaxman Library

The John M. Flaxman Library welcomes you to explore the updated Black Heritage Month Virtual Pop-Up Library, featuring electronic resources that can be accessed from anywhere and a list of books you can borrow from the library. Additionally, SAIC community members can stop by the library to explore the Black Heritage Month Book Display throughout the month of February.


Check back for more events!

National heritage and history observances are designed to broaden our collective understanding of diverse cultural heritages and recognize their invaluable contributions that have and will continue to shape society today. Instituted by the United States government, national observances bring awareness to the histories, contributions, experiences, and legacies of all who identify with these heritages. At SAIC, heritage and history month observances are recognized through a variety of programs and initiatives.

Fall 2021:
September 15 - October 15 - Latinx/e/a/o Heritage month
October - LGBTQIA+ History month
October 10 - Indigenous Peoples’ Day
November - Native American Heritage month

Winter 2021-2022:
January 17 - Dr. MLK Jr. Day of Service

Spring 2022:
February - Black Heritage month
March - Women’s History month
March 31 - Trans Day of Visibility
April - May - Asian, Asian American, Pacific Islands Heritage month
May 5 - Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Awareness

Summer 2022:
May - Jewish American Heritage month
June - Pride month
June 19 - Juneteenth

Note: This calendar is not exhaustive and may be altered. If you are aware of any events that are happening on-campus, or have an idea for heritage month events, please email: kvaler@saic.edu.

The committee recognizes there are currently more than 112 national observances. From an equity-minded standpoint, the committee has defined the above calendar for the 2021-22 academic year to amplify members of underrepresented communities that identify as Black, Brown, Indigenous, and person of color. This does not preclude other important dates from being recognized. Rather, the schedule listed above outlines specific months for which there are associated programs and is determined based on available resources.

Black Bold sans serif font features the black SAIC Square with "Honors" to the right of the box


The Heritage Awareness Programming Initiatives (HAPI) committee is composed of representatives from a number of departments across the school who endeavor to honor and raise awareness of the rich diversity and the myriad of intersectional identities represented at our school. The HAPI committee organizes programs, outreach, and learning opportunities for holistic heritage awareness with special emphasis on those that elevate Black, Brown, Indigenous, and people of color.

The HAPI committee is composed of several members who represent a number of departments and oversee the planning of heritage and history observances. The 2021-22 standing committee includes:

  • Alberto Ponce, Academic Advisor
  • Alex O'Keefe, Research and Instruction Librarian
  • Betsy O'Brien, Programm Coordinator and Career Advisor
  • Cheeyon Cha, Interim Associate Dean of Student Affairs for Academic Advising
  • Danny Boucher, Director of Residence Life and Student Conduct
  • Kate Schutta, Director, Career and Professional Experience
  • Katrina Valera, Director of Student Affairs for Diversity & Inclusion
  • Laura Bustamante, Cultural Oasis Space Coordinator
  • Laura Lamb, Director of Campus Life

The committee meets regularly and connects with student groups, committees, and any student, faculty, or staff member who are interested in being involved.