BLKout event goes virtual for Black History Month

Sophia Sailer, news reporter

Winona State University and Rochester Community and Technical College presented the virtual BLKout event on Feb. 23 at 2 p.m.
The event recognized Black History Month by celebrating Black culture, leadership and featured performances.
At the event there was a live DJ, original stories and spoken word performances, a discussion led by an antiracist educator and more.
The BLKout program was designed and is facilitated by the founders of Trill or Not Trill, a development institute focused on culturally responsive leadership.
Trent Dernbach, a student success and career advisor at the university, said the event was harder than normal this year, given the current circumstances with COVID-19.
“The WSU campus in Rochester is smaller and non-residential, so it can often be a challenge to put on big student events on our own, particularly now during the pandemic,” Dernbach said. “We have helped sponsor and promote Black History Month activities including BLKout for a number of years and always have wonderful programs and pretty good turnout.”
Jamie Mahlberg, Phi Thea Kappa’s advisor, was very excited to host the BLKout event this year.
“We worked with RCTC to put together a full schedule of Black History Month activities including virtual workshops on allyship and Black social justice movements, plus the annual BLKout event,” Mahlberg said.
Dernbach said that Winona State is always looking for student life opportunities to promote and celebrate inclusivity.
“These co-hosted events are also a great way to welcome RCTC students to transfer to WSU, since they can see that they will be included in student life activities as they work to complete their bachelor’s degree through WSU,” Dernbach said.

Amy Gehringer, a first-year pre-physical therapy major at Winona State, said events such as BLKout are very important to her college experience.
“I think it’s great that WSU is hosting events like this. They have really opened my eyes to what I can do for the Black community,” Gehringer said.
Avery Athmann, a first-year nursing major, agreed with Gehringer, saying how she also appreciates the BLKout event.
“Events like these bring awareness to the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement and really shows how much people care. It’s a great way to bring people together,” Athmann said.
Dernbach talked about how these events would function in person without COVID.
“Pre-COVID, we usually had a number of events scheduled throughout the month of February to celebrate Black History Month, including speakers, performers, educational sessions and movies,” Dernbach said.
For the BLKout event specifically, it would be operated very differently than it was online.
“The BLKout program would have been amazing at the theater at RCTC with a full sound system and a room full of people interacting together,” Dernbach said. “For now, we are thankful for the ability to connect and continue to foster an inclusive campus community in any way possible.”