Janai Freer, president of Brookdale’s Black Student Union (BSU), opened the ceremony with a brief overview of the Pan-African flag’s history. Brookdale’s Kelli Sanders, BSU advisor, sang the first verse of James Weldon Johnson’s Lift Every Voice and Sing.

Brookdale President David Stout recalled the many contributions African-Americans have made in medicine, sciences, law and numerous other disciplines in our society and worldwide. Ed Johnson, executive director of government affairs and community relations, added that African-American History Month is a moment to pause, to remember and to honor those African-Americans who have made history and to look ahead to those who will impact our future.

Following the flag-raising ceremony, guests enjoyed Emotion into Art, an inspirational performance by speed painter Tom Varano, in the Student Life Center. Set to music, Varano created canvas portraits of  the Statue of Liberty, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Nelson Mandela in a matter of minutes. The music and Varano’s words about his personal journey reinforced the meaning behind the portraits. He urged audience members to discover their passion and purpose in creating good and opportunity for others.


Brookdale Student Life and Activities Office organized the two event, with several others planned in February for African-American History Month.