The Negro Speaks of Rivers

by Langston Hughes 


I’ve known rivers:

I’ve known rivers ancient as the world and older than the flow of human blood in human veins.


My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young.

I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep.

I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids above it.

I heard the singing of the Mississippi when Abe Lincoln went down to New Orleans, and I’ve seen its muddy bosom turn all golden in the sunset.

I’ve known rivers:

Ancient, dusky rivers.


My soul has grown deep like the rivers.




For over 40 years, the Black Business Students Association (BBSA) at the Darden School of Business has been a champion for the wellbeing and interests of Black students. We have also proudly used our platform to showcase the richness of Black culture and celebrate the many contributions and achievements of Black individuals in business and otherwise. As Langston Hughes so eloquently depicts in one of his most famous poems, Black roots have been long-standing and spread all around the world. Assessing our daily lives, we have Black people to thank for modern clocks, traffic lights, automatic elevator doors, blood banks, ironing boards, pacemakers, mops, dustpans, home security systems, microphones, modern light bulbs, refrigerated trucks, and much more. There is no form of music that is removed from Black influence. Black women helped the U.S. shoot for the moon and actually land there not just merely among the stars. As attached to our mobile devices as we tend to be, it’s also worth noting that a Black woman gave us touch-tone phones, caller ID, and call waiting. 


This year would have been the third installation of Black Business Experience Week. However, this has been no ordinary year. We have witnessed multiple crises play out on the global stage that have amplified the ways in which Black people remain bound to struggle and continue to fight for dignity against institutions that were never meant to serve or include us.

Over 400,000 people in the U.S. have died from COVID-19, a number that is rapidly growing as the days pass. Of those deaths, more than 55,000 Black lives have been claimed by the virus, a gravely disproportionate impact relative to our current population make up. In places across the country, those same refrigerated trucks conceived by Frederick McKinley Jones became morgues as medical centers reached their bandwidths for care. Loss also manifested as countless Black businesses collapsed due to the economic downturn, deepening generations of poverty and wealth divides. Black learners have suffered immensely as an already inequitable education system proved to be incapable of meeting their holistic needs and they will continue to fall behind their counterparts, playing a stacked game of catch up. Black bodies also remain in a constant state of vulnerability at the hands of not only law enforcement but our very own neighbors. We grieve the lives of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Ahmaud Abruery, and the unspoken names that have not made major headlines but are nonetheless absent from us because we operate in a reality centered on whiteness and fear of difference. 


For these and so many other reasons, BBSA has chosen to focus on Black joy and will not be holding any formal programming this week. In light of all that’s transpired, we believe it is important to extend Black students the time and space to lean into activities that energize them and not be burdened with the responsibility of educating or entertaining others. We commemorate the efforts of Carter G. Woodson to organize a dedicated moment each February to recognize the integral role of Black people in our society.

Despite the distress we’ve encountered this past year, there have been glimmers of hope. Kamala Harris became the first Black woman to hold the office of Vice President. Rosalind Brewer recently became the CEO of Walgreens, making her the third Black woman to lead a Fortune 500 company. And due to the genius of Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett, we now have a vaccine in motion to curtail the pandemic.

We encourage the Darden community to not only take part in meaningful edification this week or month alone but persistently seek understanding about the Black experience. We have prepared a helpful guide to get you started. We challenge you to: 

  1. Immerse yourself in Black culture. 
  2. Invest in initiatives that support the advancement of Black people. 
  3. Investigate the ways in which you personally exhibit or purvey anti-Blackness. 

In Truth and Resilience,

The BBSA Board