Celebrating history and hardships

By Jessica Stamp

Throughout the month of February, Black History Month celebrates, recognizes and honors the African American people’s past challenges of unequal opportunity and their contributions to culture and history.

Carol Bennett, assistant provost for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, said Black History Month used to last only a week before Carter G. Woodsen, founder of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, petitioned for a month of celebration.

According to the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, it believed it was significant to have the month of February be observed for African Americans and black history.

ASALH, however, sought recognition from the federal government, in the belief that it was important for our nation to set aside the month of February in official observance of African Americans’ contributions to the history of the United States and world,” ASALH stated.  

Bennett said this month celebrates African or Black people and allows people to further understand events as well as gain new information.

“It is a celebratory of people who identify as African and or Black, but it’s also an unearthing some of the challenges that people have had and overcome and is [about] learning new things and possibly relearning some things,” Bennett said. 

Bennett also said February is important because it acknowledges the diversity of people and described the U.S. as a melting pot filled with groups of people that made the country great.

“Regarding the foundation of the United States and the people, and you’ll find that Africans were here in the 1500’s. We owe certain agricultural products to them,” Bennett said. “We owe how sometimes we design our homes, especially in places like Louisiana.”

Della Toliver, a sophomore nursing major, said she wishes people took the time to learn more about Black History Month and Black culture.

“It’s important for all communities, regardless of your own ethnic background, cultural background, to take an opportunity to learn about someone else that’s different than you,” Toliver said. “It’s our human obligation to learn about them and just how to communicate with them and connect with them on a different level.”

Black History Month can bring up uneasy and hard conversations but Toliver said it’s okay to have these types of conversations because it challenges people to be better.

“Listen to individuals talk about certain issues, talk about certain topics and expect that maybe some things that are brought up will make you feel a little bit uncomfortable and that is okay. Feeling a little bit uncomfortable only challenges you to grow even more,” Toliver said. 

Toliver said Black History Month can help people grow by engaging with the culture and history.

“Not all history is easy but it’s history that people need to hear,” Toliver said. 

Bennett said students can take part in the event like the African Marketplace which will happen from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Feb. 4 in the Kilcawley Center’s Chestnut Room. Food, dancing and vendors will be available for those attending.

“It’s a multiple layered way of connecting with the culture,” Bennett said. 

Bennett and Toliver said there is more to Black culture than what is portrayed on social media and taught in schools.

“Definitely taking the time and energy to learn about [Black] culture and read about the community … Black history is more than just what you learned about in grade school,” Toliver said. 

If interested in learning more about Black culture and history, reach out to the DEI office or visit Jones Hall room 1004.