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Black History Month

Feburary 13, 2014

By Tara Harris


February is Black History Month. Each year has a theme and this year’s theme is Civil Rights in America, as it’s the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act.

It is a month set out to recognize the achievements of African Americans, a month to educate others about the history of black people in America, a month to acknowledge the problem between cultures, a month to work on resolving problems that are a result of miscommunication and the misunderstanding among peoples.

Historian Dr. Carter G. Woodson along with Reverend Jesse E. Moorland created The Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH), in 1915. The purpose of the organization was to educate Americans about the contributions black people have made to this great nation.

The work of ASNLH evolved in 1926 with the creation and celebration of National Negro Week. This educational movement started by Dr. Carter and Rev. Moorland eventually evolved into Black History Month, which the U.S government officially recognized in 1976.
Unfortunately, some people have been arguing that Black History Month is not relevant and not worth celebrating. For example, Morgan Freeman once stated on a 60 minutes interview with Mike Wallace, “Black history should not be relegated to one month because black history is American history.”

Although the idea of celebrating the contributions of African Americans all year round is a good idea, realistically it rarely occurs. Since most accomplishments of great black Americans throughout history are not included in American history books or American history courses. This is why both African American history courses and Black History Month exist.

Many supporters of Black History Month feel that contributions of great Americans such as W.E.B DuBois, Booker T. Washington and many others would otherwise be forgotten. For example, the published memoir ‘Twelve years a slave’ by Solomon Northup, a bestseller in 1853, vanished from history books and took 160 years to become a conversation piece.
Black History Month was created to remind people of things that black people have accomplished throughout history.

Perhaps every month should remind students of the workings of previous achievers. Each department at Cleveland State has at least 12 influential people they could acknowledge with one person being honored each month. The month of February would be a great month to highlight the most influential black person in each department’s history.

For example, during the month of February, the college of engineering could honor Elijah McCoy or Granville T. Woods who helped improve electric railway systems and the college of urban affairs could honor Robert Weaver the first black person to serve on the cabinet as he was the secretary of housing and urban development.

Today, black people are still stereotyped. As long as stereotyping against black people exist, the need to reinforce black history is necessary.

While there are still students like those at Arizona State University that threw a “black party” on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and people like George Zimmerman that can claim to be a trained boxer but felt threatened enough to kill an unarmed teenager are still in
existence it is our responsibility to showcase the talents of black people throughout the year and most importantly in February the month nationally dedicated to black history. To educate people about black culture and to help eliminate the stereotypes often placed on black people.

Other colleges and universities have acknowledged Black History Month by providing guest speakers and hosting performances.

Ohio State University’s department of African American and African studies celebrates the Diaspora with the theme “We’re Not Finished Yet” featuring keynote speakers Chuck D and the director of the Dream Defenders.

The Men in Action organization at Baldwin Wallace celebrated Black History Month with a showing of the movie American Violet. Other student organizations at Baldwin Wallace have various events planned.

The University of Akron is celebrating the life of Opie Evans, one of the earliest black photographers in Akron with a photography exhibit on campus.

A few major companies have acknowledged Black History Month.

On the first day of February Google acknowledged the beginning of Black History Month by honoring Harriet Tubman with a search doodle.

Macys celebrates Black History Month with “Eras of style” campaign where they honor the styles that were prevalent during various eras of black history such as jazz, soul era, disco, funk hip hop and present day.

The NBA is also honoring Black History Month by having players wear warm-up t-shirts featuring hashtag NBA BHM.

Black History Month is also celebrated in Canada and the United Kingdom. Canada celebrates African-Canadians during Black History Month with museums featuring special exhibits. The United Kingdom celebrates Black History Month in the month of October. England first started the celebration in 1987 and it stretched to other parts of the U.K.

Some may still question why there is a Black History Month. However, many people are not aware that there is also a Women’s History Month, Hispanic Heritage Month, Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month, American Indian Heritage Month and LGBT Pride Month. The answer would be the same for each month. The purpose of those months is to bring awareness and education about minorities to the masses and to remind everyone that America is diverse and its diversity should be embraced.

Previous events:
Cleveland State’s Speak Up poetry organization held a Black History Month poetry slam on Friday Feb. 7 in the Main classroom.

Cleveland State presented a music concert in honor of William Grant Still, the classical composer, on Feb. 9.

Upcoming events:
The department of Inclusion & Multicultural Engagement (IME) has an essay contest with the question, How has Black History Month contributed to the mosaic of multiculturalism in your life and in society? There will be a prize awarded to first, second and third place winners. First place prize is a $100 gift card to Cleveland State’s Bookstore. Essay submissions must be sent to r.chavez71@csuohio.edu and are due Feb 21.

The Cleveland –Marshall College of Law Black Student Association will honor high school students that excel academically with an event titled “Bridging the Gap between our generations for success” on Feb.25 at 4 p.m. in the Moot Court Room.

The Black Studies Program will present a few on campus events. The following three events will take place in the Howard A. Mims African American cultural center in Main Classroom room 137

Feb. 20 at noon An Introduction to Ronald Hayes and “Breath and Imagination”

Feb. 25 at noon Black on the Silver Screen: The interest of current African American film makers 

Feb. 27 at noon The Black Artist on the Racial Mountaintop: A panel discussion with reflections on the life of Langston Hughes

Feb. 27  at 7 p.m. PHD to PH.D How Education Saved my Life by Dr. Elaine Richardson a 45 minute play will be held in the Drinko Recital Hall in the music and communications building  presented by the college of liberal arts and social science and co-sponsored by the department of English, Women’s Studies and Black Studies.