Posted by: Naima | March 2, 2008

Questions Arise

This week, I attended a forum where students of different years and backgrounds came together to discuss Black History Month. The discussion was led by Amandla!, the black students’ union on campus. The point of the night was to answer and expand on an age-old question: Why do we celebrate Black History Month? We went around, from deans to freshmen to special guests, and shared how many of us celebrated February in our high school and elementary environments. The results were unimpressive; one girl’s school celebrated black history by eating grits at dinnertime, another’s just jammed all black-American history into February ultimately making it almost impossible to retain any of it. We explored a lot of issues, but one of the ones that struck me the most was the question of whether or not Black History Month helps to further divide the country by race. While it was agreed by most that it is nice to have a period of time to reflect on a history often neglected, it was also easy to see that Black History Month provides an opportunity for many educators to not teach black history outside of February. All of the great stories about black-Americans that are put onto film are almost exclusively featured on TV during February. This gives the people controlling the media an opportunity to say, “We do feature stories about black-Americans…but only during February”. I’m not really trying to catapult myself into a rant of any sort, but I find it interesting to wonder what our country would be like without periods of time to celebrate the history of blacks, women, latinos, and other marginalized groups. Would it force schools to go more into depth about the struggles of the people in our country? These type of questions stuck with me because I learned the wealth of black history I know from my parents. And while I’ve taken courses at Bates that perpetuate that knowledge, there are so many people who will grow up, get jobs, and live in the real world without ever obtaining an understanding of the American history of people all around them.

Peace and then some,

Naima

Here’s a photo from the forum…

forum.jpg

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