In the United States, the month of February is observed as Black History Month or National African American History Month, and we use the month to remember the important contributions and achievements of African Americans throughout our nation’s history.Â The celebration can be felt nationally and worldwide as many organizations, cities, states and countries host events that educate on the rich culture, and memorable figures of African American history. As a new month of remembrance begins, let’s consider the important reasons why Black History Month is observed each year.
Celebrate with knowledge
Carter G. Woodson was the sole individual responsible for creating Negro History Week in Washington, D.C., in February 1926. To Woodson, the black experience was too important simply to be left to a small group of academics, and believed that his role was to use black history and culture as a weapon in the struggle for racial uplift.Â His goal was to ensure that school children be exposed to black history. Woodson chose the second week of February in order to celebrate the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass
The development of Black History Week to a full month was proposed by the leaders of the Black United Students atÂ Kent State UniversityÂ in February 1969, and they held their inaugural celebration one year later, in February 1970. Quickly following that event, schools followed suit, creating clubs, playing host to lectures and more, all of which is still seen today.
In 1976, the bicentennial of the United States, President Gerald R. Ford expanded African American week into a full month. He said the country needed to â€œseize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of African Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.â€�
This holds true today when all too often only the most negative aspects of African American communities get highlighted. We are overwhelmed with images of rowdy athletes and reality â€œstarsâ€� as examples of the success of black people. And we are subjected daily to unfair stereotypes and assumptions from a culture that is still learning to accept us.
Black History Month is an integral part of our nation’s tradition in which we continue to promote positive examples of poignant historical events, exemplary leaders and steps towards societal change. This remembrance is not only deeply meaningful for the African American community, but imperative for the greater understanding of national and world history.
Engage the community
By reliving and remembering history, we create awareness of the struggles and challenges that African Americans overcame in this country. This proven perseverance will serve as inspiration for the diverse community of Aurora, CCA and the rest of America. February has become a time designated for reflection, open dialogue, interdisciplinary education, and shared advocacy initiatives. Every race is connected to the rich history of this nation, and by celebrating Black History Month everyone can be included in a tradition of acknowledgement, inclusion and community engagement.
CCA is hosting several Black History Month events including a Black History Live Tour with Frederick Douglass on Feb. 19, a riveting workshop by Cynarra Tweed on Black Feminism on February 24, a Social Justice discussion on February 25 and Beyond Ferguson: Panel Discussion on Feb. 26, which will host several influential voices all discussing the incidents in Ferguson, Mo. Check the calendar for ideas on how to participate in the celebration.
Inform the youth and reflect on the past
Although we have an African American president, many young people are not aware of the sacrifices and struggles that those before them have made to be where we are today. We can’t take this accomplishment as an end point, however. We should use this opportunity to reach even greater heights. It’s easy to take the rights we have for granted if we don’t remember the determination that earlier generations showed, all of us have the potential to forget them. As the world continues to diversify with groups of many different origins, cultures and creeds, it is as important as ever to celebrate the histories that make up the collective account of our nation. It is important that we reflect and celebrate the monumental contributions and use them as a platform for future growth.
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About the Author
Assemblyman Gantt sponsors the
Annual Black History Essay Contest
February has been officially declared Black History Month in New York State. In celebration of the contribution of Black Americans, I am sponsoring an Annual Black History Essay Contest.
I sponsor this contest each year so students like you have the chance to explore the many contributions of Black Americans. I am sure this will be one of your most unique learning experiences. What you learn will be very special because you choose the topic.
The winners of the contest will receive $25 in cash and will also take a trip to Albany to see how New York State government works and visit the Assembly Chamber. We will have lunch together and take some pictures for a newsletter that will be sent to everyone in our Assembly District. It is a trip you will not forget!
The rules of the contest are outlined in this bulletin. I encourage you to take it home and show it to your parents. They can help you with the project. Your teacher also has an outline of the rules and can help you too. It is important to remember that on February 29th the essay must be handed in.
If you have questions - or would like to know more about the contest - you can call my Assembly District Office. The telephone number is 454-3670. I or my staff will be glad to answer your questions.
I hope you decide to enter this contest and I look forward to reading your essay. Remember, each essay is very special because the topic is chosen by you and it is not given out as an assignment. I think that is the most exciting part. Research and writing are not easy, so ask your parents and teachers for help. Good luck!