In 1926, Carter G. Woodson, son of former slaves, established Negro History Week in an effort to acknowledge and support African-American contributions and celebrate the culture’s long and rich legacy.
In 26 years after Woodson’s death and three years before the start of the Civil Rights Movement, Negro History Week was rightfully expanded and the entire month of February was dedicated to Black history and the enlightenment and empowerment of a nation.The African-American experience, which predates the independence of the United States, has been one marked by struggle, dedication, triumph and accomplishment. Although the circumstances and conditions have changed drastically since the establishment of Black History Month, its relevance and the role that African-Americans have played in furthering the growth of the United States has not. In an institution as diverse as St. John’s, the magnitude of the celebration of Black history increases tenfold; but do we really understand and appreciate it?
The student-run organizations here host a multitude of events which are dedicated to Black history and the African-American experience, and February is no exception. On February 7, the brothers of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity hosted an event to commemorate the accomplishments of Rosa Parks, the mother of the Civil Rights Movement.
The annual MLK dinner was held as well as Black Greek 101, an event intended to highlight and honor the accomplishments of each and every Divine Nine organization and the impact Black Greek Letter Organizations have had in the advancement of the nation. In addition, The Color of We sponsored by Step Ya Game Up and the Communications Club, but the turn outs and reactions have been slightly disappointing.
Besides poor attendance to some of the events, there were also cases of vandalism to the posters and flyers promoting these events-an illustration of apathy towards the mission of advancement and ignorance. Have students truly forgotten the significance of this month, are we taking our lifestyles and education for granted or are these just isolated displays of ignorance?
According to Lynecia Burgess, a junior, the celebration of Black History Month is essential. “As an African-American it is important for me to remember those who paved the way for me to be able to even attend college,” said Burgess.
Operations were made possible by the invention of blood banks thanks to Dr. Charles Drew, clocks, trolleys, portable air-conditioners, heating furnaces, and even the White House came into existence through contributions made by African-Americans.
“As a college student, education extends beyond the classroom. These events are life experiences-things that you can’t learn in the classroom. You owe it to yourself to maximize your education,” says Chris Godfrey.
These pre-approved events enhance education and add an element which cannot be attained inside the classroom alone.
Regardless of how knowledgeable a person may think they are on the subject of Black history and the African-American experience, these events consistently prove that Black history encompasses more than the superficial.
Black History Month celebrates and supports improvement and progression-the foremost reason why most of us are here today.Anyone who has not attended or participated in any of these events which commemorate Black History has a chance to redeem themselves at the Black and White Ball which will be sponsored by Haraya, the Pan African Student Coalition.
The Haraya office is located on the second floor of the UC, as well as the Activities office which is located on the first floor of the same building if you need tickets.There is no excuse for not paying homage to those who made it possible for us to be in our current positions and giving Black History Month the recognition it deserves.