Celebrating African American History

Valentine’s Day is one of the most eventful days in February, where students went crazy buying gifts for their loved ones and taking them on spontaneous dinner-and movie dates (I’m talking  about the guys). But one of the most meaningful events  of the whole month was Black History Month.

Black History Month was originally introduced as Negro History Week in 1926 by Carter G. Woodston and the Association for the Study of Negro  Life and History. It was placed in the month of February to honor the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Fredrick Douglas, two people instrumental in the abolition of slavery. Throughout the decades it grew in popularity, so much that it eventually became Black History Month. We’ve had many firsts in Black History; the first black  American inventors, scholars, NASA pilots…and now we have President Barack Obama. So that leaves the question; why is Black History Month so important? “It’s important for us to know who we are and where we came from,” Father Stephan Brown states. There was a mass celebration this past Sunday where the Voices of Christ sang gospel hymns and Father Stephan based his sermon on two significant people  in  Black History; Father Augustine Tolton, who was the first African American Roman Catholic and  Mother Henriette Dellio, who was the first African American nun.“If Black History didn’t exist, I wouldn’t be here today,” Martin Williams, a Saint Leo Student stated. “Being a mixed race, it means a lot to me.”Troy Schaffer,  member of the fraternity Sigma Alpha Epsilon expressed, “I feel that we need to know all the accomplishments that we made in history,” Schaffer also added.

Some students felt that Black History wasn’t honored enough at Saint Leo. Dr. Heather  R. Parker, Professor of Social Sciences, disagrees. “Saint Leo University has a Martin Luther King speaker every year,” this year it was Al Duncan, whose presentation was covered by The Lions’ Pride. Dr. Parker also mentioned that the School of Arts and Sciences hosts Black History Month events every other year, rotating with Women’s History Month. A few examples of these events were  a presentation called“The Black Athlete in America,”  and Poet Valada Flewellyn.

Some students pointed out the important people and events in Black History. “Well there is President Obama’s election,” Ravin Forde stated. “And Sydney Poiter is an important person in Black History,” and he was the first black person to win the Academy Award. Father Stephan has enlightened me with a plethora of events that happened. He stated that in 1494, there were two African Americans who sailed the ocean with Christopher Columbus. In 1563, the first African Americans landed in Spain, and most spoke Spanish.

These students I interviewed provided some insight to the importance of the events in Black History. Some people have been thrown into the back burner of history, “Harriet Tubman. I feel they don’t talk about her a lot these days,” Ravin stated. Harriet Tubman was one of the people in Black History that created the Underground Railroad. There are people such as George Washington Carver; he provided many uses of peanuts, from peanut butter to shampoo.

It seems like everyone did their part in honoring Black History Month. As black American people, it is good to know where we’ve come from and where we are going along the way. We’ve come a long way from where we’ve been.

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