Black History Month kicks off

Steve Bushong

Campus groups to host a variety of events

Campus groups and academic departments will host a variety of events in recognition of Black History Month, which begins today.

The Center for Pan-African Culture will lead the university community in hosting events, as it brings artist Storm E. Weather to Oscar Ritchie Hall tonight. Weather will perform poetry with political and social overtones.

Among a variety of other events, Black United Students will host Tavis Smiley on Feb. 24, whom USA Today called “arguably the nation’s most influential black journalist.” And NAACP will hold a discussion on racial and economic segregation in public schools Feb. 15.

According to faculty, black student leaders and the creator of black history month, Carter G. Woodson, the purpose of the month-long celebration is to foster discussion about the achievements of African Americans and their impact on American history.

Woodson originally created black history week in 1926; it became a month-long celebration in 1976. At the time he created it, he had hoped to see the week-long event eventually dropped from the calendar.

Assistant professor Mwatabu Okantah explained what Woodson may have meant.

“Eliminated from the calendar in that black people would just be part of the history,” he said.

Okantah said he doesn’t believe that has happened, which is why black history month and the events surrounding it are still needed.

BUS president Sasha Parker said having a month to remember black history is great, but it should be remembered all year.

“I feel like black history is so intermingled in American history; I feel we should have more,” Parker said.

Okantah said if students desire a more diverse perspective of history, they should take a class in the Pan-African studies department. A third of the students in his current classes are not black, which he said is a positive sign.

“How often are we as black and white people engaged in conversation?” Okantah asked. “The only way to get beyond this is for people to engage in meaningful conversation.”

Whether having a month dedicated to black history is truly effective in spawning dialogue and spreading black history is unknown, but African Americans aren’t the only race with a month dedicated to remembering, discussing and celebrating their history.

Hispanic Heritage Month begins in September, and November is National American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month.

“Black people aren’t the only people in this society; they’re not the only ones with a diminished history,” Okantah said.

Contact minority affairs reporter Steve Bushong at [email protected].