Black History Month will be celebrated from Wednesday, February 1st to Wednesday, March 1st this year, to honor and remember the struggles and triumphs of African American people living in the United States. According to ASALH, the theme of this year’s Black History Month is Black Resistance.
Carter G. Woodson, an author, historian, and journalist known as “the father of black history,” started the first holiday dedicated to remembering the past of African Americans in 1926, calling it “Negro History Week.” Woodson chose February because social reformer Frederick Douglas and former U.S. President Abraham Lincoln shared a birthday in February according to WorldEconomicForum.
In 1976, President Gerald Ford officially recognized Black History Month, and twelve years later congress passed “National Black History Month” into law. It has been celebrated at schools, colleges, and for personal events ever since then.
As Black History Month commences, two JCCC students Tyra Eastwood (18), and Jameel Price (23), along with JCCC Student Life Manager Mya Lawrence share their experiences being African American, including the challenges they’ve gone through and what they hope to see during this time of change.
“Black History Month is celebrating my culture and seeing how far my culture has come from essentially being treated like dogs… there been 400 years of oppression,” Price said. “But also I’ve also seen it as 400 years of resilience, perseverance, and innovation.”
Lawrence says that Black History Month for her signifies
“A time where we can share our culture with the world… Me, personally I don’t limit learning about black history just to February. It’s something that I explore all the time, either through my readings or my writings.” She also said, “Black history is American history. And the fact that it’s not embedded into the overall stories is the part that needs to change.”
The adversity African American people face can differ between darker and lighter skin tones and can make one feel out of place.
“I am biracial, so I have more of a privilege than someone that’s fully black… for example, if I ever get upset, I’m not looked at as like ‘the angry black woman,’ versus if my black friends were to get upset everyone looks at them like, ‘you’re the angry black woman,’” Eastwood said. “When I was growing up in elementary school, I was too black for the white people and too white for the black people. I never felt like I could fit in.”
According to Dictionary.com, racism is a belief that inherent differences among the various human racial groups determine cultural or individual achievement; racial or ethnic prejudice, or intolerance.
Price shared that
“My experience as a black man has had its challenges.… A lot of myths have been dispelled about my personal life, [including]… things I’ve learned as far as [knowing] the advantages as far as my life goes and the disadvantages.”
The recent and ongoing police brutality cases and the fight to end them have been going on for centuries. Some recent victims include Daunte Wright (20), Rayshad Brooks (27), George Floyd (46), Bryanna Taylor (26), most recently Tyre Nichols (29), and hundreds of others.
“It’s really upsetting, it literally makes me sick to my stomach. Just knowing I have a black brother and that could be him… You can’t even fathom the fact that your brother could be just be getting a speeding ticket, but he could end up being dead, it’s just terrible.” Eastwood said.
Price shares a similar stance on the issue.
“It seems as if the media seems to use events like this [police brutality] to traumatize the public and there is a lot of sensationalism that does occur,” Price said. “But at the same time, these events do need to have their spotlight because it sheds light on how unjust things are within policing.”
Incidences of racism are still prevalent in our society. A 2020 poll by KFF stated that 71% of Black Americans had experienced some form of racial discrimination or mistreatment.
“It would come in the form of something as subtle as a microaggression ‘oh you’re so articulate, you know how to string words together.’ And, that can be kind of demeaning because I’m human, I know how to communicate words,” Price said. “Something as subtle as that, [or] something as direct as being called a n****r to my face.”
Eastwood has also faced racism in her life.
“One time at an after party, we [friends] were all chilling in the basement and someone said the N-word and I said, ‘don’t say that,’ and he looked at me and went in my face and said ‘n-word, n-word, n-word’ in my face and I slapped him,” Eastwood said. “And he got really close to me too… I was just sitting on the couch with my friend and he got up to me.”
Although the history of African American people in the U.S. has primarily been violent and dismal, there is much to celebrate and triumph such as the epic underlying story of overcoming defeat and hardship.
“I’m beyond proud of my ancestry,” Price said. “Really I love essentially an underdog story and I just love being able to witness a proverbial coming-of-age story unfold, before my very eyes… to have people that are generations ahead of me drop the jewels there capable of dropping its awe-inspiring.”
Lawrence says that
“I wake up black every day. I show up as my authentic self…. so that’s how I celebrate my culture, just being who I am.”
Civil rights activists like Ida B. Wells, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King, Jr., changed the course of history by challenging unfair social norms such as segregation. Ida B Wells, led an anti-lynching crusade in the U.S. in the 1890s, while Malcolm X advocated for Black empowerment during the 1960s. Martin Luther King, Jr., was a prominent civil rights activist who paved the way for segregation to end around 1965.
“Ruby Bridges, the fact that she was the first black little girl to go to school with all these white people…” Eastwood said. “The way people were yelling and screaming at her, and she did that, I respect that so much… She was the beginning of what we are now.”
Both students and faculty member show great pride and honor for the hardships their ancestors faced.
“The resilience of the people, just thinking about how my grandmother was the daughter of a sharecropper, and how they were able to migrate up north to build a different life and give different access for their children,” Lawrence said. “It makes me proud that with each generation, we are able to do [better] and have more access to things our ancestors couldn’t even dream of.”
Generation Alpha, young people growing up between 2010-2024 according to McCrindle, are growing up in a time of major cultural change such as gender roles and reflectiveness of social issues that need to change. Eastwood and Lawrence offer some guidance to the new generation of African American people growing up in America.
“Don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone, travel, be able to explore… Also, don’t sell yourself short. If you are met with a barrier, figure out how you can deter and go around it, so you can continue to pursue what you want,” Lawrence said.
“Just be unapologetically yourself. Don’t change for anyone, don’t let anyone tell you who you are, and do you!”
For more information on Black History Month events going on around campus, visit the BSU studentlife page and visit the Co-Lab Wednesdays at 1 pm.
Eliana Klathis, Features editor