February 2016 marks the 90th anniversary of the celebration of Black History Month. Black History Month dates back to 1926 when historian Carter G. Woodson established the second week of February to be “Negro History Week”. During this month, the Western world is challenged to contemplate on the study and celebration of the journey and achievements of its African-descended residents: a journey filled with obstacles and triumph. From denied freedom, equality, and justice to compromise, sacrifice, opportunity, and community. This history is complex as it is embedded with sadness, pain, promise, and hope. It is filled with lessons of leadership, community, and love that are still applicable to our lives today.
We asked some Dalhousie students what Black History Month means to them and why it should be celebrated on campus. This is what they had to say:
Black History Month is a beneficial period where many can gain awareness of the contributions and accomplishments of, often, unrecognized people of African ancestry. It’s a period when the younger generation can learn about a comprehensive history of Canada and abroad. For me, Black History Month is not confined to the shortest month of the year, it’s every month! I celebrate and learn about my history and culture in every aspect of my life and illustrate that pride in everything that I do.
- Mana Gebreyohannes, Masters of Social Work
Black History month means taking time to pay tribute to those who broke down barriers for me. Although every day I am conscious of and proud of my roots, black history month is like an active reminder to celebrate out loud. To bring the roots of my being to the forefront for once in a society where they often take the back seat. It is important that we celebrate Black History Month on campus because it is a way to bring people of all races together. Recognizing that we all have an important history to share and we all can play a role in celebrating how far we’ve come while also remaining aware of where we have yet to go.
- Cinera States, 3rd year Medical student
To me, Black History Month means celebrating and appreciating a history that is often extenuated. It means letting the world know that Black people have made significant contributions to society, as well as reminding the younger generations of the barriers cleared for them by those who challenged extremely unequal conditions of the past. It should be celebrated at Dalhousie because when the community is not aware of different perspectives on events in history, attitudes of racism and discrimination have room to arise in people’s opinions and thoughts. This negatively impacts students of African descent, and perpetuates situations that lead to disadvantages that people have worked so hard to eradicate over generations.
- Desiree Jones, 4th year sociology major & minor in Law
Black History Month is an opportunity for communities to learn about and honour the cultures, histories, and legacies of people of Afrikan descent. Not only should Black History Month be celebrated at Dalhousie but the legacy of people of Afrikan descent should be meaningfully reflected and integrated in academic curriculums and policies.
(Amina Abawajy, 4th year Informatics and International Development Studies major)
To me black history month is the recognition of the adversities and liberation of the African people throughout history. I believe that Black History Month symbolizes the movement to change injustices that we currently live in. Black History Month is important to acknowledge at Dalhousie so that students are aware of the substantial contributions that we have made to society. In a world that is run by white privilege, we need to continue to motivate the black people to strive for the greatest so that they may emulate their ancestor’s great work of changing society to be better.
- Vicky Atiol, 4th year Economics student
Celebrating Black History Month at Dalhousie is critical, because it can be used to correct many of the misrepresentations and misunderstanding of black history and culture. Black History Month encourages open dialogue and personal interactions between the many cultures found on campus. These conversations and interactions can lead to a better understanding and appreciation for the different experiences and challenges each student endures every day.
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere…whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly” – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
For Black History focused events throughout the month on and off campus visit: https://blogs.dal.ca/globalhealth/