Post Date and Author: 
- by  By Patricia Okker, Ph.D
New College President Patricia Okker

From SRQ on 2-12-22:

As we celebrate Black History Month—my first as president of New College of Florida—I am amazed by what our campus community has created.

For a fairly small college, our February programming is vast and vibrant, thanks to the visionary work of Queen Zabriskie, Ph.D. (New College’s interim dean of diversity, equity and inclusion; and an associate professor of sociology) and her team of dedicated students, faculty and staff. This year’s theme, “Black Healing,” is illustrated through everything from Black literature listen-ins and spoken word nights to film screenings and symposiums.

“Black History Month is an opportunity for all of us to come together to celebrate Black history, culture, life and achievements. It is also a time to learn about the global Black experience, as well as the contributions that Black people have made to the U.S. and the world,” Zabriskie says. “We encourage the community, at New College and throughout Sarasota-Manatee, to learn, celebrate and heal with us this month.”

Most of our Black History Month events, from now until March 5, are free and open to the public—virtually, on our campus, and at locations throughout Sarasota-Manatee (such as the Ringling College of Art and Design library, Art Center Sarasota and the WSLR 96.5 radio station). I hope our local friends can experience the program with us this year, as it continues to expand with support from our generous community partners.

More than 24 of our students, staff and faculty members at New College have contributed to planning 20-plus events (sponsored by grants from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and Florida Humanities), including the “Black Arts and Performance” series, the “Conversations on Race and Ethnicity” public lecture series, the “African Diaspora Film Festival,” the “New Schools of Black Thought Symposium: Reclaiming Wellness,” and a bell hooks literature display in our library.

This commitment to celebrating Black history and culture is evident at New College, not just in February, but all year long. We are proud to be a partner in the “Visions of the Black Experience” Film Festival, in collaboration with the Sarasota Film Festival, the Boxser Diversity Initiative, the Multicultural Health Institute, and the Manasota Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH).

Just last month, we were honored to host the awards ceremony for the “Emerging Filmmaker Scholarships”—a new initiative through the “Visions of the Black Experience” Film Festival. As Paul Ratner, managing director of the Sarasota Film Festival explained, these scholarships foster a new generation of filmmakers.

The scholarship recipients included: Will Mauricette (first place), a Ringling College student and the director of the crime thriller, Monopoly Money; Keishen Lloyd (second place), a 2018 Ringling College graduate, whose short film, Color of Love, is about an interracial relationship; and Gospel Nwachukwu (third place), a student at State College of Florida, who created a short psychological horror film entitled Free. We are thankful to our “Visions” collaborators, as well as the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, for helping make these scholarships possible.

Through initiatives like the “Visions” festival, the “Emerging Filmmaker Scholarships” and our Black History Month programming, we are connecting with our community in new, collaborative ways to celebrate culture together. Please join us in celebrating Black History Month.

For more information on Black History Month at New College, visit 

Patricia Okker, Ph.D., is the president of New College of Florida.