From the time we’ve been in grade school, we’ve been made aware of Black History Month. Names like Rosa Parks, Dr. Martin Luther King and Booker T. Washington are praised and admired for what they have done for black lives in the United States. While these events are important to the advancement of black culture in the past, many are looking to broaden how Black History Month and black culture can be celebrated today.
The Office of Diversity and Inclusion (ODI) has compiled several different events over the month of February that focus on the history of black culture in the United States.
These events have included a viewing of “Mekonen: Journey of an African Jew,” hosted in collaboration with the Jewish Student Association; a soul food sampling and a trip to the Underground Railroad Museum.
This museum trip offered insight on the issue of slavery in the United States and made many of those who went think about how long it took for anti-discriminatory laws to be put in place.
“People continue to push issues back because they think slavery ended over 100 years ago,” student Rachael Love said. “Just because slavery ended doesn’t mean that us being confined by this government has stopped.”
Still to come are a lecture on how black music of the 20th century affected the civil rights movement and a viewing of the film “13th,” which details the 13th constitutional amendment and its eventual effect on mass criminalization and the growing prison industry.
Students feel that Black History Month goes hand in hand with issues like Black Lives Matter and find that it is met with some trace of backlash as it tries to assert that black rights are still a continual issue.
They also stress that they don’t think Black History Month is just for black people and excludes all other groups. Throughout history, people of all different ethnicities have helped advance the civil rights movement, and their celebration and validation of black culture is extremely important.
“It’s kind of like here with the ODI. I hardly ever see anyone in here that doesn’t look like me,” student Sarah Buckley said. “They think they’re going to be marginalized or excluded in here and that’s not true. It’s the Office of Diversity and Inclusion.”
Black History Month is often just assumed to be about the enslavement of African Americans and the hardships they have gone through in history. While it is important, it shouldn’t be the only focus.
“I never heard anything positive or uplifting about black people in history class,” student Dayzia Colflesh said. “It was all about enslavement.”
The black community has had an immense impact on advances in science, technology and many other aspects of society that often go unnoticed.
“It’s to empower us,” Love said. “Like that movie ‘Hidden Figures,’ it shows that we have all of these talents, but we didn’t get to be the face of it because we were black.”
The goal of Black History Month is to celebrate the accomplishments of the black community and the great strides they have made for society as a whole. All can appreciate black history, participate in events over the month of February and focus on how black culture has made strides in the past and will continue to work toward a better future.