Many Americans recognize February as the month of love with Valentine’s Day on the calendar, but February also serves as Black History Month nationwide.
“The campus observes Black History Month to honor the past, present and future lives, struggles and achievements of Black people,” said Donnesha Blake, Director of Diversity and Inclusion on campus.
The observation of Black History Month in the United States has a rich historical background and has been dynamic since its beginning.
“Black history month started in 1926 in the second week of February as Negro History Week and was extended to the full month in 1976,” said Autumn Montgomery ‘23. “To me, Black History Month is about not celebrating the achievements of Black Americans but recognizing that Black history is American history. Throughout the existence of our country, time and time again the stories, identities and contributions of minorities have been whitewashed and erased. Black history month is a time to take claim of the impact that we have had on this country.”
Alma College’s Black Student Union worked hard to plan the campus’ observation of Black History Month this year to reflect the modern political and social climate.
“This year our theme is ‘Unapologetically Black,’” said Dr. Blake. “We chose this theme because oftentimes Black people are asked to apologize for their histories, lives and cultures. We have certainly seen that last year during the global uprising for and in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. We wanted to explore what it means to be bold, brave and unapologetic in our celebration of Black history and culture.”
Black History Month serves not only as an opportunity to highlight the historical accomplishments of Black people, which are too often overshadowed, but also as a source of empowerment and solidarity for people of color.
“To me, the goal of Black History Month is not to simply acknowledge it and move on, but it’s an opportunity to re-engage, strengthen and renew our efforts to love, honor and respect Black life. For some, Black History Month can be a catalyst to learn and honor the lives of Black people, their history and culture throughout the year. For others, BHM celebrations can be sources of renewed energy after months, years and even centuries of struggle.”
Throughout the month of February, the Diversity and Inclusion Office will host many different activities for students to become engaged in Black History Month.
“All month long my office is hosting the Discover Our Glory Contest,” said Dr. Blake. “The Discover Our Glory is a self-guided worksheet that includes prompts related to African American history that students can research. Faculty and staff can participate too, but the prizes are for students. Those who complete it will be entered into a drawing to win a $50 gift[card] to the bookstore.”
Alma College’s Black Student Union will also be hosting a variety of different events throughout the month for students to celebrate and learn about Black culture.
“On Sunday, February 14, 7:00-9:00 p.m. in DOW L1 and on Zoom, we are doing a special Valentine’s Day screening of the Oscar-winning short film Hair Love and the documentary Pelo Malo,” said Dr. Blake. “We are going to use that film to have a conversation about how we combat anti-blackness in beauty standards and media representations. There will be special Valentine’s Day treats if you join in-person or you can grab some treats from Dow L1 to take back to your room to watch virtually.”
Students should be sure to frequently check the campus calendar and register for these events beforehand to ensure they can celebrate Black History Month to the fullest.