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Students: CSU fails to acknowledge Black History Month

By Christina Sanders

Feb. 14, 2013

This past week students in Cleveland State University’s Black Studies department expressed discontent and frustration with the university’s failure to acknowledge Black History Month with similar emphasis as the school had done in the past by organizing a series of events with faculty, students and the local community.

Many students felt that African-Americans have made large contributions in every field that the university offers study in and that the failure to acknowledge the month or bestow recognition on these individuals is wrong and a failure on the part of the university.

“From the stoplight to the ironing board, people of color have accomplished something major,” said Renee Evans, a student who works in the Black Studies Department and is involved in numerous organizations on and around campus. “There should be some kind of acknowledgement in each building highlighting the impact of a person of color in each field.”

Evans is one of the students who feel that the university is making a habit of putting Black History Month on the back burner, as it is the second year in a row that the university has failed to officially acknowledge the month.

“Black History Month is like any other holiday,” she said. “They could have opened it up more. It’s a learning experience for all cultures. We let it slide last year.”

Dr. Michael Williams, director of the Black Studies Department, disagrees with the above characterization. He said that he is trying to get students to comprehend and accept the new direction the celebration of Black History Month is daring to forge.

“The goal is to celebrate Black History Month 365 within ourselves,” Williams said.
By celebrating Black History Month everyday within themselves, Williams hopes to instill awareness and restore pride and engagement to an indifferent generation of African-American students.

When asked about the university not officially celebrating the month, one student simply shrugged and said that he didn’t care about the month or what the university was doing, or not doing, to celebrate it, failing to even lift his head.

Dr. Williams feels that self respect and acknowledgement is not only limited to African-Americans, but also other minorities. He feels that a group must acknowledge and promote themselves first.

“It is not up to other people to acknowledge our history,” Williams said. “We must promote our heritage, then others will see and follow suit.”

Prester Pickett, coordinator of the Howard A. Mims Cultural Center at Cleveland State, echoed Dr. Williams as he agreed that there is new thinking on the way that Black History is celebrated.

Pickett also mentioned that in addition to the shift in celebration technique, the center is also in a process of communication transition. This year there was no official posting of a calendar of events or fliers. All of the events were communicated online via the Cleveland State homepage.

“We need to get someone over here that is technologically savvy to post on the social networking sites, because by the time I coordinate an event, it’s difficult to spread the word in time,” in time,” Pickett said.

Students around campus were divided on their views about how Black History Month should be celebrated. Some students were enthusiastic about continually remembering the efforts of the people who struggled to shape the world available to African-American students today. On the other hand, some felt that they could take or leave Black History Month because they felt that it was no longer relevant to their lives.

Pickett and Williams both acknowledged the struggle it is to make Black History Month, and other aspects important to the African-American culture, interesting to not only African-American youth, but also other cultures in general.

However, Pickett has recently begun to experience a resurgence of enthusiasm in few places and around the community.