A Celebration of Black History
February is Black History Month, a time to honor and celebrate the impact that black people have had on America and their place in its history. At Olivet, Multiethnic Student Services has spent the month putting on events to highlight and recognize the accomplishments of black Americans.
BSCA President Kélynn Brummell and Vice President Kaelen Magruder at Black History Trivia Night
These events included a mixer for the black students on campus, a discussion group on healthy relationships, and a night of trivia dedicated to black history. The last Thursday of the month concludes the activities with the Black Gospel Celebration. This worship celebration gives a chance for black students to sing, recite poetry, dance, and perform in observance of their history.
Dr. Cynthia Taylor has been the head of the Multiethnic Student Services on campus since 2013. Throughout the month, she has sent out emails to the student body, “bringing education and awareness of the contributions of African Americans.” These emails, which have featured musicians, engineers, and athletes - such as runner Florence Griffith Joyner, who set world records for her speed - give students the chance to educate themselves on the importance of black history.
Since coming to campus in 2006, Dr. Taylor explained that she’s seen more exposure for Black History Month.
“[As] with anything, you’ll have pros and cons,” she said, “but I’ve seen more pros than I have cons.”
Along with the exposure, she’s seen a positive increase in the embracement of the month from students, which she likes more than just tolerance. For her, tolerance is less than embracing. It means that people are just going along with it, but nothing more. They are not taking the extra step towards involvement.
“When you embrace,” Dr. Taylor said, “you’re intentional. You want to know, you want to lean in.”
In order to embrace black history, people must become educated about black history. According to an article from Texas A&M Today, the first official observance was on Feb. 7, 1926, when Carter G. Wilson, who is known today as the “Father of Black History”, created “Negro History Week.” It was not until President Gerald Ford officially recognized it in 1976, that it turned into a month-long celebration.
According to the same article, professor of Afro-American history, Albert Broussard, said that the reason for the celebration taking place in Feb. is, “because Black people had traditionally celebrated the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglas, both of whom, were born in the month.”
In order to bring to light Black history to her peers, senior Nicole Brown has been using her Instagram stories to bring awareness about black history and culture.
“I started the idea my freshman year, to honor different black people in our history that have helped pave the way for people who look like me,” Brown said.
Each day of the week, Brown focuses on a different part of the community. On Mondays, which she’s titled “Music Mondays”, she gives the history behind the music and songs in black culture. She’s dedicated her “Real Talk Tuesdays” to talk about important topics that need to be discussed, such as words people have said and need to stop saying or things that are currently happening in the community. During her “Woman Crush Wednesdays”, she highlights black women.
For her “Thoughtful Thursdays”, she finds and shares different poems and quotes from black authors and leaders to discuss, and on Fun Fridays she talks about games and memes that black people love and relate to. She dedicates each Saturday to shouting out black-owned businesses and on Sundays, which she’s named “Soul Food Sundays”, she shares recipes from the black community.
However, there are other ways for people to educate themselves. To start, conduct a Google search.
“I think Google is such a great resource,” suggested Brown. “You can just type literally anything in and it will show you so many different resources.”
There are also a plethora of podcasts, films, and books available, such as The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander, Uncomfortable Conversation with a Black Man by Emmaunuel Acho, and Reading While Black by Esau McCaulley, all of which Dr. Taylor stated she recommends. And, there’s always respectful, open dialogue. “People don’t like to do this, but the best way [to learn] is to just reach out to people and ask,” she said.
These conversations might be awkward, but Brown agrees, stating that they are important to have, even if they are hard and uncomfortable.
“We need to remember that we can’t grow unless we want to be uncomfortable at times,” she said.
For more recommendations and resources on black culture and history, students can go to Multethnic Student Services page, located under the student support tab on my.olivet.edu.