BY Juelle Ford
February is coming to a close, meaning that Black History Month will have had it’s 43rd celebration in the United States; however, since it began as “Negro History Week” in 1926, many people have opposed and questioned why it is observed at all. Carter G. Woodson, Harvard University graduate and noted scholar, author, and co-founder of the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, visualized a national holiday that would recognize the history, contribution, and accomplishments of African Americans to American History. “If a race has no history, if it has no worthwhile tradition, it becomes a negligible factor in the thought of the world, and it stands in danger of being exterminated.” Woodson’s idea developed into an entire month of celebration, observed in schools and other public institutions across the United States and many other countries worldwide.
In a world where the accomplishments of black people are denied and undermined, the concept of celebrating black history is undeniable. However, multiple issues began to evolve that caused many to debate the validity of it’s celebration. As it is definitely a worthy cause, it is difficult to argue against is celebration in public institutions and it’s observation as a national holiday. The issue is not whether it is celebrated, but how. At Cerritos High, it is traditional to celebrate Black History Month with a few quad games, special performances by black students, and recounting of inspiring triumph against adversity of many notable African Americans. Recently, in the small black community on campus, passionate members of the Black Student Union (BSU) express their disappointment in how Black History Month is observed. After consulting a few active members of BSU, I have come to the conclusion that the best way to honor Black History is in an informative manner. This is because it is difficult to maneuver in the fine lines between what is interactive and offensive. As the former Commissioner of Multicultural Affairs, I agree that it is challenging to find interactive games and activities that appeal to all audiences on campus. I applaud ASB’s continuous effort to highlight the diverse cultures here and it is a shame that the effort isn’t very fruitful or effective- mainly because they don’t include the historical aspect of Black History Month.
How can this be solved?
Well, there are a few applicable solutions. First, ASB could continue our traditions of quad games, dress up days and bulletins and hope that with each new set of incoming freshman appreciates the celebration. This is what seems to have been the “solution” to the issue of BHM for the past few years. Alternatively, we could place more responsibility of BHM on our Black Student Union. If the club was able to add creative direction to the event, it could lead to more participation in the performances and games. Finally, which is the most drastic- but unnoticeably so to the majority of the (non-black) students: making black history month entirely informational. Although the idea of “watering down” school events doesn’t sound nice, it is the duty of the leadership to tend to their audience. There are so many astonishing feats by Black Americans that go unacknowledged in our history and it would be amazing to take the information that the majority of students are unfamiliar with and turn them into fun and informative games and “did you know” posters/announcements instead of dress-up days that hold little to no significance to students.
I hope that the future of Black History Month becomes meaningful to everyone, because at the end of the day, Black history is American history and it should be acknowledged in a respectful and inclusive manner.