Today and throughout the month of February, our PennWest community joins the nation in recognizing Black History Month. The annual observance presents opportunities for reflection and discovery as we celebrate the past, present and future achievements of African Americans.

The Association for the Study of African American Life and History has selected “Black Resistance” as the theme of Black History Month 2023. Resistance is a primary thread in the fabric of African American History.

Black people have witnessed triumphs in the push and pull for racial and social justice, including key legislation like the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and political gain with the election of the nation's first Black president, Barack Obama. These victories were forged by the strife of Antebellum times and fueled by the courage to get into good trouble during the modern civil rights movement and #BlackLivesMatter protests.

In the face of oppression, segregation and discrimination, Black people have excelled in all walks of life. Individuals like Dr. Charles Richard Drew, a renowned physician known for his pioneering work in blood preservation and the establishment of blood banks, and Thurgood Marshall, lawyer, civil rights phenom and the first Black American appointed to the Supreme Court, were trailblazers. And in higher education realms, historical and contemporary African American standouts include Alexander Wright, the first African American to receive a bachelor's degree, and Cornel West, philosopher, activist and professor emeritus at Princeton University.

Let us continue to learn from one another, and may we all be encouraged to speak up and take action toward a "more perfect union."

– a message from the Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

All Black History Month events are open to the public and will be livestreamed on PennWest’s YouTube channel.

PennWestBlack History Month 2023

Please join us at the following virtual programs and watch for student organization activities across PennWest University.

A Journey of Black Leaders in Higher Ed
Feb 8, 2023 | 3 p.m.
Zoom Link
Meeting ID: 957 2946 1952
Passcode: 121546

Erie, Pa., native and PennWest Edinboro graduate Tina Turk will open the university’s Black History Month events with a discussion about her professional journey from admissions recruiter to campus president. Turk, who earned a master’s degree from New England College of Business, leads FORTIS Colleges and Institutes in Maryland.

Red Table Talk – African American Faculty and Academic Freedom
Feb 15, 2023 | 3 p.m.
Zoom Link
Meeting ID: 914 5087 2805
Passcode: 547582

Dr. Michelle Torregano, associate professor in PennWest’s Early Childhood and Elementary Education Department, will serve as moderator of the faculty panel. Torregano holds a bachelor’s in elementary education and a master’s in educational administration and leadership, both from Xavier University of Louisiana, and a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction from Penn State University. She served as the Frederick Douglass Visiting Scholar at PennWest California during the 2010-11 academic year.

Black Excellence:  Remembering Black Wall Street through the Lens of African-American Entrepreneurs
Feb 22, 2023 | 3 p.m.
Zoom Link
Meeting ID: 937 6746 0932
Passcode: 760826

A panel of PennWest faculty, alumni, students and community members will discuss the history of America’s Black Wall Street and the influence of Black entrepreneurs. Panelists include:

  • Dr. Rhonda Matthews, associate professor of political science and women’s students in PennWest’s Department of Political Science and Criminal Justice, is an active researcher in the areas of intersectionality, gender and women’s studies. She earned a bachelor’s degree in English literature from Alcorn State University, a master’s degree in counseling from Mississippi State University and a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Oklahoma. Matthews is dedicated to the advocacy and empowerment of women and children because of her previous work as a counselor for sexual assault survivors.
  • Angelica Spraggins is a graduate of PennWest Counseling program. She is also co-owner of Journey to a Trauma Informed Life and co-founder of Erie's Black Wall Street, which promotes entrepreneurship within the Black community.
  • Tiffany LaVette, a graduate of PennWest’s Master of Social Work program, is a mentor and life coach. Her business ventures include ownership of ABC 24 Hour Child Care Center, transportation services and a food truck.
  • Marva Keys-Morris is the owner of Zenedge Energy Drink, a brand of functional beverages that are low in caffeine. Keys-Morris owned and successfully operated a plastic blow molding company in Detroit before acquiring Zenedge Inc. in 2009. She led the company into its first major retail and online accounts, including Country Fair, ShopRite, Walmart and Amazon.

Can You See Me? Voices and Experiences of PennWest African-American Students
Feb 28, 2023 | 6 p.m.
Zoom Link
Meeting ID: 936 2949 3086
Passcode: 072988

PennWest student panelists will discuss challenges and opportunities regarding their educational experiences and actions that enhance and support students who are Black, Indigenous and/or hold marginalized identities. Panelists include:

  • Savannah L. Dorsey holds a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and a certificate in Spanish for law enforcement from PennWest California, where she is pursuing a master’s degree in criminal justice and criminology. Beyond the classroom, the Pittsburgh native serves as a Presidential Leadership intern, a member of the Board of Directors of Student Association, Inc., secretary of Cal’s African American Alumni Society, a graduate advisor to the Black Student Union and a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated.
  • Nia Latham is a senior political science and sociology student at PennWest Clarion. A strong advocate for diversity, equity and inclusion and an active member of the Clarion community, Latham is president of the Black Student Union, a DEI ambassador and a community assistant. She is an aspiring attorney who is studying for the Law School Admission Test.
  • Jada Smith is pursuing a master’s in clinical mental health counseling at PennWest Clarion. She is CEO and founder of Scholars with Athletic Goals (SWAG) for Girls, LLC., an organization that provides scholarships to young women in sports and the arts. The Philadelphia native hopes to own her own practice focused on trauma and breaking the stigma around mental health in the African American community. Active within the campus community, Smith is captain of Clarion’s women’s basketball team and a Presidential Leadership Intern. She has participated in the President’s Leadership Academy, Brothers and Sisters in Christ, Student Athlete Advisory Committee, and Black Student Union.

Photo caption: PennWest graduate student Jada Smith will discuss her experiences in higher education during a panel on Feb. 28.