Black History Month

Tea McGilvray and Christine Odwesso

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For students at Allen High School, Black History Month is a chance to celebrate black heritage and reflect on the accomplishments of those before them. Black History Month is celebrated during the months of February and October, and was created by historian Carter G. Woodson originally only to last a week.

“I think it’s important to commemorate Black History Month because we don’t really know much about black history,” junior Jessica Day said. “Having one month for that is not enough, but it’s important because we need to learn. History repeats itself, and we can’t just learn white history and think that that’s okay. Even when we learn white history we’re not learning everything.”

For some, Black History Month is a chance to learn more about the history that they don’t get to learn about in class. For others, Black History Month is also a chance to grow closer to self acceptance.

“I think there is a lot of self-hate in the black community, especially with colorism,” junior De’ja Dade said. “Black History Month in general is a month to celebrate the beauty in being black.”.

Dade can relate to the struggle of self-acceptance that she feels many young black girls face. When asked if she had always been proud of her black heritage, her answer was a clear and definite “no.”

“I hated wearing my natural hair. I hated my afro puff. But I came to realize how versatile my hair really is. Now I see more parents teaching their children about self-love, but I feel like it should be bigger, I feel like people of color in general struggle with it, even though I understand because I was at that point. I want children to learn at a younger age that they are beautiful the way they are.”

Dade believes her perception of herself was influenced by the media and those around her, she realized the importance of representation for people of color in the media.

“Middle school is when I started to transition and become more proud of who I am, but elementary school? I always wanted to be white.” Dade said. “I didn’t realize how much it had impacted me until I started learning otherwise. I had a lot of self-hate and insecurities and it took me a while to learn that black is beautiful.

Some students have created organizations in order to celebrate diversity and promote inclusiveness. Last year, Allen alumni Magus Chihaba started ASO (African Student Organization) to make a platform for African students to commune with each other and find common ground.

“It was really nice in the sense that, it was something in my week that I’ll look forward to do,” Chihaba said. “It gave me a sense of satisfaction because I felt like I was being a positive influence in the lives of young Africans to help them be comfortable with who they are.”

According to Dade, Black History Month also reinforces the importance of being educated and rallying around prevalent black issues in America. Dade was inspired to become more involved with black issues after the increased publicity of the shootings of unarmed African American teenagers.  

“The Trayvon Martin case is where I started thinking more about race, discrimination and police brutality,” Dade said.  “I couldn’t believe how easy it was for them to take someones life, like a reflex. I don’t believe it would have happened if they were of another skin color. People claim they don’t see color, but they do. You see how the situation plays out with a white suspect and a black suspect. You see it.”

Something that most advocates of Black History Month can agree on is that one month is not enough. The purpose of Black History Month is to remind us that we have history we’re not acknowledging day-to-day, according to both Dade and Blake.

“Black History Month creates an opportunity to remind ourselves of the issues, and that’s what I think concerns me — Black History Month should be a constant reminder of what we should be reminded about in our history all the time,” history teacher Dawn Blake said. One isolated month, whether it’s breast cancer, women’s rights, Black History Month, we have to constantly be reminded.”

Black History Month has come a long way from what it used to be. Blake recalls barely listening to the “I have a dream” speech in her eighth grade history class, with little discussion of the impact it made. Blake says to fix this, she tries to encourage thinking of all aspects of history in every unit she teaches.

“I think the thing we as educators should do is create overarching themes that discuss civil rights within each of the units, and then be able to figure out where those people fit into the scope and sequence,” Blake said. “Just saying ‘one person, one person’ the kids are gonna know it, but they’re not gonna understand the impact that those people made during that time period.”

Being educated on a subject changes the way one sees events and how you react to them, if people never learn about black history they can’t be expected to be proactive in society.

“I believe that when negative behaviors are not recognized and frowned upon, they are destined to happen again,” Chihaba said. “Racism is one of those behaviors that will never be removed without action.”

After talking to the students, the common consensus is that things won’t change without education and action. Blake believes it is the responsibility of the people to learn from the past and take action in the future.

“I feel that without actually merging this history, we don’t apply it to the kids’ lives and teach them,” Blake said. “Kids need to understand their responsibility in the community to stop it from occurring if they see it from happening, and be supportive of everyone of every paradigm.”

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