‘Something to be proud of all the time’

Kyle Roerink

Students say February is a month to learn about one’s history

A lot of people wonder why Black History Month is in February.

When Dr. Carter G. Woodson launched Negro History Week in 1926, he chose the second week of February to honor the birthdays of two men: Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln.

Since 1976, Black History Month has been celebrated during all of February. It may just be a coincidence that the 15th Amendment, the NAACP and the first sit-in all turned into fruition during the second month of the year. But if there is a defining characteristic of the month-long celebration, it is about knowing who you are, said Ashley Tolliver, president of Black United Students.

“It feels like it is not a white or black thing when it comes to Black History Month,” she said. “History is connected one way or another.”

The famous actor Morgan Freeman was quoted on CBS’ “60 Minutes” saying he didn’t want a Black History Month because all of black history is American history.

Tolliver said she agreed with Freeman, but she also believes that even though black history is American history, it is great to spend time engaging in whatever racial, religious, ethnic and cultural backgrounds that pertains to a person’s life.

“It is important for everybody to know their history,” Tolliver said. “If you’re in America, African-American history is prevalent because African-Americans are responsible for social and political movements that have helped shape this country.”

Tolliver said Black History Month challenges people to focus on things they would not focus on throughout the rest of the year. She said that although some people feel like it is a duty to be engaged culturally during Black History Month, the month is important because people attend events and celebrations they may not normally partake in otherwise.

Tolliver believes that for Kent State to be a more united community, everybody has to be open-minded to things they are not accustomed to.

“For Black History Month, there are a lot of black Americans who don’t support Black History Month because they feel like it is not relevant to what is going on now,” she said. “I think that any cultural, religious and racial organizations should make it a practice to attend things outside their social norm because you never know what you’re going to learn.”

Lametris Joyner, a 42-year-old sophomore at Kent State, said Black History Month is significant because it represents culture and heritage to the African-American community.

“It is not taught a lot as a course in our schools,” she said. “The month is the only time a lot of our children and adults learn a lot of things about our ancestors and their inventions.”

Considering all humans came from one starting place, Africa, Joyner said Black History Month should go all year around because it is part of everybody’s heritage and culture.

Joyner said a figure she wants to commemorate during Black History Month is from Kent State.

Brian White, an academic adviser and coordinator, has been a role model to Joyner throughout her time at Kent State.

“He continually tries to help someone else be better than him,” Joyner said. “He is always trying to always make sure to try and find the most positive aspects of yourself.”

Another Kent State faculty member received an encomium from a student in honor of Black History Month.

Brittnei Neely, a Kent Sate University Police Officer and former president of the university’s NAACP chapter, said professor George Garrison is a person who helped change her life.

“In general, he is just a great man,” she said. “He saw the leadership qualities within me that I didn’t even know I possessed. He goes above and beyond the call of duty.”

Neely said W.E.B. Dubois is one of her favorite stoic figures from history because he was one of the founders of the NAACP, a group she was able to preside over during her time as a student at Kent State.

“If it wasn’t for individuals like (Dubois) and Martin Luther King Jr. who dedicated their lives and put their lives on the line to a make a way for individuals,” she said, “…I may not have been able to sit down and do this interview.”

Neely thinks Black History Month is a time to pay homage to the success of black Americans and all Americans.

“It shouldn’t only be time to celebrate in February,” she said. “It is something we should be proud of all the time.”

Contact minority affairs reporter Kyle Roerink at [email protected].