What I Learned This #BlackHistoryMonth

I remember back in elementary school, we used to really celebrate Black History Month. I went to Mae Jemison Elementary. If you don’t know who Mae Jemison is, she was the first African-American woman to fly to space. Black history was rooted in the foundation of my elementary school and an integral part of the curriculum. But as I progressed through the educational system, there seemed to be a less and less emphasis on Black History Month. At this point as a graduate student at a predominantly white institution, it’s practically non-existent.

Something was different today though. On the final day, there was an exhibit that identified some of the major black business owners in the atrium of the Business Instructional Facility. Organized by a group of black business students, the exhibit spanned the length of the atrium, and engaged students to learn about black history. They also was serving sweet tea from a local black owned business, “Ooh Wee! Sweet Tea“. It’s actually pretty good, check it out for yourself!

This was a proud black moment and very rare occasion. You see, there are very few African-American’s in the College of Business. Seeing everybody come together established a unique, but pleasant presence.

As I read about the bio of each figure, I began to see the importance of learning about those that came before you. The beautiful thing about history is that it documents the mistakes and successes of the past. Through this we can learn from both, and advance each other for the greater good. Black history has impacted all of us in a major way, regardless of who we are and where we come from. As Black History Month comes to a close, I would like to reflect on it’s earliest roots.

Dr. Carter Godwin Woodson is known as the “Father of Black History Month”. He was one of the first black students to receive a doctorate degree from Harvard, and received is bachelors and masters degree from the University of Chicago. After his studies, he committed his life to one mission, making sure that black history was taught in schools.

Dating back to February 1926, Dr. Woodson began lobbying for organizations and schools to participate in a program that encourage the study of African-American history. This was known as “Black History Week” then. The week has grown now into something celebrated even beyond the  coast of America.

He is also the author of the revolutionary text, “The Miseducation of the Negro”. This influential text has revolutionized the way education is looked at. I wish that I could summarize the text in this blog, but be outside it’s intended scope. The book targets western indoctrination and the importance of understanding ones culture/history. Dr. Woodson highlighted that success often deters one from remembering where they came from, as well as the importance of service over leadership in the community.

Regardless of how Black History Month is celebrated, remember it’s true meaning. To educate not only ourselves, but others about the importance of history, and black history. I often hear people complain about why Black History Month is only 28 days, but fail to realize that it only began with 7. That the month was selected to honor those who advocated for the civil rights of African-American and were born in February.

I’ll end this with something I took from the Black & Latino Male Summit this weekend. Dr. James D. Anderson is the interim dean of the College of Education and was the keynote speaker. In his speech he talked about how he was always furious when blatant racism was surrounding him on this same campus, but 40 years ago. The professor he was expressing his concerns to, told him that while he’s sitting here complaining, the library is still open.

The one thing that I learned this Black History Month, is that the library is still open. I look to spend more time in there, and so should you.

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