As February comes to a close, I feel it is beneficial to look back at the dedication towards the celebration of black history this month. So, I decided to ask a few students to share their opinions about black history this month.
Christlene Amitie, a UWF graduate student and president of the Minority Association of Premedical Students was asked why she thought black history month was important. She stressed the importance of celebrating the trailblazers who have had such an impact on the past and the present.
“As time passes, our African American history is being left behind- pushed to the side,” Amitie said. “It is important to set aside this month to continue to celebrate and educate current and future generations, so we always remember how far our ancestors have brought us and how they made great sacrifices, and even greater accomplishments in this world.”
Although Amitie believes black history should be celebrated year round, she said, “I do love that we have a specific month that belongs to us, because honestly, we can never have something good that’s just for us. During this month, I am reminded how far our ancestors went, to give us a life that is better than what they had. Clearly, there are still some things we have to fight for as people of ‘color’; but because of them, there’s a lot we don’t have to go through. Throughout the year, I personally forget that. And just live life normally, but in the month of February I always reflect on all the amazing things ‘colored’ people have accomplished and appreciated it more.”
When asked who inspires her the most, Amitie stated, “James McCune Smith, the first African American physician; because of him, I can pursue my dream and become a physician.”
In my opinion, one of Amitie’s most inspiring statements from her interview was the following: “To be someone personally subjected to a form of racism, I think we, as African Americans need to continue to speak up, stand out, and fight for rights to be seen and heard.Even though as humans, we shouldn’t have to. Continue to be innovative, creative, and amazing. We need to not be afraid to be the only black person in the room and fight for a seat at the table. Most importantly, we need to help others get where we are and not think of them as competition; have each other’s back, as other races do. We have to do better for our people and keep killing the game together. We are amazing people who were royalty, and still are. No other race can take that from us, but us.”
Madikay Faal is the president of Alpha Epsilon Delta, an honors pre-medical organization. His role model in black history is Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
“I just think there’s something very noble about holding on to your ideals in the face of adversity like he did,” Faal said. “Of course, this could be said about many of the black advocates of that time, but one story that makes MLK stand out to me is how, even when many of his fellow comrades turned a peaceful protest violent, he stood his ground and made it clear that it wasn’t the right way to get things done. It takes a lot of courage to stand up against your peers like that, and it is clear evidence of his resolve and his ability to lead others down the correct path.”
I asked Faal how he personally felt about black history month and his response was, “When I hear the phrase ‘black history month,’ I usually feel a brief sense of pride for being part of such a rich culture. However, after a bit of thought, this feeling is replaced by some sadness, as I imagine all the blood, sweat, and tears that were shed to get us to this point.”
The student interviewed last was Armelle Delouis, who is a medical lab student. When I asked Delouis why she believed we needed a month set aside specifically for black history, she stated, “I never quite understood why it was so controversial for black people to have a month dedicated to their history, and ancestry. There is Hispanic Heritage month, Asian Pacific Heritage month, Caribbean Heritage month, and the list can go on proclaiming the different religious and cultural practices, that may have weeks or even several months dedicated to their history and ethnicity. Wouldn’t not having a month dedicated to African/black history be odd? Honestly, a month doesn’t limit me from celebrating black accomplishments 365 days of a year. Whether a month is needed for black individuals who celebrate themselves everyday, may not be necessary. But it is necessary to have the month to remind those outside of the race/ethnicity to commemorate adversity this race of people have endured and surpass, and to embrace the culture.”
She continued, “Being Haitian-American, black history month has a unique meaning to me. Haiti was the first independent black nation. Every time this month comes around, I’m reminded of the strength and courage of people. The month also reminds me that very few can relate to the story, and battles of my ancestors.”
I also asked Delouis who in black history inspired her the most and she said,“I honestly do not choose a certain person to admire. But is not to say that I have not taken time to recognize and become knowledgeable of certain honorable black men and women who have paved the way. This is because not one person changes everything, not one rebellion caused a revolution, it was a multitude of effort, tears, blood, and courage that allows for me to be school today among my peers. Also, there are hundreds of thousands of undocumented individuals who may have caused change that we may never know about. So overall, I just try to educate myself more and more about african history.”
Despite the difficult past, great strides are still being made to uplift black people within our society. The month of February is dedicated to reflecting on the past, while also embracing where we, as a people, are headed. I can honestly say, all three of these amazing people I interviewed are determined to do their part to become an integral part of black history.
My takeaway from these three interviews is that black history month has the power of inspiration. It is the preservation of a people’s culture and provides a past that opens the door to the future. It is the celebration of a great people that have overcome obstacles meant to stifle the greatness that is within us.
Photo Credit: “Maplewood Arts and Culture”