Black History Month is a celebration of African American culture and history. According to Time Magazine, in 1926 Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (previously called the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, which he formed with Jesse E. Moorland in 1915), created the first "Negro History Week." Woodson created it, as well as the Association because he was frustrated with how African-Americans were not part of the narrative in history lessons. The predecessor to what is now Black History Month began in the second week of February, as it contains both Abraham Lincoln's and Frederick Douglass' birthdays. According to Time Magazine, the celebrations of the history week picked up quickly. However, in the mid 1960s, during the Civil Rights Movement, colleges and universities expanded on the History Week, turning it into Black History Month. From there, in 1976, President Ford then decreed Black History Month to be a national celebration.
But to truly understand what Black History Month means, as well as what Regis students can do to support students of color on campus, an interview with the Black Student Alliance (BSA) on the Regis campus proved very insightful. While there were mixed reactions to the perspective of Black History Month, the overall feeling was that Black History Month is not enough. As one member of BSA said, "You say it out loud, but nothing really happens;" there is a feeling of inaction regarding the representation as well as the education of the role that people of color play not only in history but everywhere in academia and beyond. When asked if the BSA is doing anything specific to commemorate the month, the answer was no. While there is Anti-Oppression Week, V-Day, and Justice Week to mention a few campus-wide events, it is expected that the BSA would be the one to completely structure the celebration of Black History Month, which many of the BSA members felt was too much pressure as they would be making something completely new.
However, Regis students can do things in order to support the people of color on campus. For instance, the inclusion of people of color on flyers or ads around campus, minimizing people of colors' experiences both in and outside campus can help. Along with this, the BSA emphasized the importance of not expecting every person of color to answer every question about their community or the effect a topic has on them. They encouraged us to ask more thoughtful questions whose answers cannot be found by looking elsewhere. One of the biggest forms of support is integrating people of color more into the campus. Another aspect that the BSA talked about was the idea of tokenization; often times, the people of color on campus or outside of it who become tokenized are expected to answer questions or queries for the whole of the community. As a result, the people of color are seen as "other," and not as who they are, which are people, as well as our fellow students.
For those interested, the Black Student Alliance meets on Wednesdays, from 4pm – 5pm, in Clarke 138.
Margaret Gentry Staff Reporter