Two distinguished African American women -- author, educator, and rapper Sister Souljah and Belle S. Whelan, Virginia's Secretary of Education -- will deliver keynote addresses during Virginia Tech’s observance of Black History Month.

This year's theme is, "Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education," the landmark 1954 Supreme Court decision that outlawed "separate but equal" educational facilities. Numerous events will be held beginning Jan. 19 and will run through Feb. 28.

Souljah will speak on "The Tradition of Racism in America" on Tuesday, Jan. 27 at 7 p.m. in Colonial Hall of Squires Student Center. A reception will precede Souljah's presentation at 6 p.m., and she will sign copies of her book, Community Activist, immediately following her lecture. The reception and book signing will be held in Virginia Tech's Black Cultural Center, 126 Squire Student Center.

Wheelan will present "Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas" on Friday, Feb. 13 at 5 p.m. at the Donaldson Brown Hotel and Conference Center Auditorium. A reception will follow at 6 p.m. in the East Dining Room at Donaldson-Brown.

Both lectures and related events are free and open to the public.

Souljah is the executive director of Daddy's House Social Programs Inc., a not-for-profit corporation for urban youth financed by Sean Puffy Combs and Bad Boy Entertainment that educates and prepares youths to be in control of their academic, cultural, and financial lives. Her first book, No Disrespect, topped the Essence magazine bestseller list. Her second book, The Coldest Winter Ever, was a national bestseller and was the basis of an HBO movie.

As a rapper, Souljah's debut album, 360 Degrees of Power, sparked controversial discourse on issues of education, race, sexism, preparation, and reparations. She has appeared on the "Oprah," "Phil Donahue," and "Today," and was a featured speaker at the Million Woman March.

Wheelan became the first African-American female to serve as president of a two- or four-year public institution in the Commonwealth of Virginia when she accepted the position of president of Central Virginia Community College in Lynchburg in 1992. From 1998 to 2002, she was president of Northern Virginia Community College, the second largest community college in the nation. Wheelan is one of a distinguished group of 10 African-Americans honored with a 2003 Strong Men and Women Award. These awards are bestowed on those whose leadership, vision, public service, and ability to communicate make them outstanding role models.

Several other events are scheduled during Virginia Tech's Black History Month celebration, including a concert by the Grammy Award-winning ensemble, Sweet Honey in the Rock, on Monday, Feb. 16 at 8 p.m. in Burruss Hall Auditorium. The African-American female a cappella ensemble has deep musical roots in the sacred music of the black church as well as jazz and blues traditions. Tickets for Virginia Tech students, faculty and staff are $15, $20 for the public, and $25 at the door. Call the Virginia Tech Women's Center at 540-231-7806 for more information.

Other events include films, discussions featuring people who lived through the post-Brown v. Board integration of schools, theatre, a book discussion, and more.

Black History Month is coordinated by the Student Life and Advocacy Office in the Division of Student Affairs. For more information, contact Rosa Jones 540-231-6023 or visit the following website: http://www.mcp.vt.edu/calendars/bhm2004.shtml