BY TUMA HAJI
According to first-year Jessica Booker, Black History Month is “a celebration of both black history and culture. It’s a time where people all around the U.S. learn a little bit about black history and reflect on the good they have done in this nation. It’s just really a time to pay respect to those who helped build our world.”
The month of February, to many people, holds celebrations that go past Valentine’s Day and the quadrennial leap year. February has been designated by the U.S. government, as well as Canada and the United Kingdom, to be the annual celebration of African-American achievements.
In the words of President Gerald Ford, who designated Black History Month as an official holiday, the month is meant to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every endeavor throughout our history.”
Black History Month has been a part of U.S. history since the early 20th century when Carter G. Woodson, who was African-American and a Harvard historian, created the Association for the Study of American Life and History (ASALH) in order to encourage black history as a discipline and celebrate notable African-Americans.
He believed that “if a race has no history, it has no worthwhile tradition—it becomes a negligible factor in the thought of the world, and it stands in danger of being exterminated.”
To solidify the importance of African-Americans in American society, his organization chose the second week of February, which included the birthdays of abolitionists Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln, to celebrate “Negro History Week.” Although the celebration was quickly embraced by the middle class, the idea only spread to encompass a whole month several decades after the establishment.
As part of that education, Drake organizations such as the Coalition for Black Students have put up numerous posters and informative pieces on boards in residence halls as well as featuring African-American films like “Marshall” every Friday in Sheslow Auditorium at 9:00 p.m. for the month of February.
Other students, like Tanzanian native Bukusu Anastzie, does not feel that Black History Month is an integral part of her identity as an African.
“I do have something that I celebrate, like my culture, every day, and don’t have to wait for one month to actually celebrate,” Anastzie said. “I also don’t look at it as a month that should be celebrated for just one year. It’s something that should be celebrated every year because you know there’s so many different things that happened every month that were done by African-Americans that are of great importance to society.
“(Black History Month shouldn’t be) clustered into one month … (it should be) something going on every year, every day—we should be celebrating African-American history because what’s America without African-American history? I celebrate every day, so the value for it is beyond a spot in my heart. It’s a part of my life.”
Booker, who views Black History Month as integral to her identity as an African-American, reiterated the importance of the annual celebration.
“It is important because, just like with other racial history, it gets greatly washed out by white history,” Booker said. “It’s important to educate everyone, both black and non-black, of who we were, what we’ve done, and what we can achieve. It’s so easy to get caught up in the stereotypes that both society and our own culture view us in. This month is here to show beyond the surface layer of who we are. This month is about embracing black pride.”