By Kristopher Andre
Black History Month is an important month for people to recognize the efforts of many that fought for equality and justice for black people. Heroes, such as Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Rosa Parks and in contemporary times, former President Barack Obama, have set the standard for equality in America for African-Americans and gave them a vision they can aspire to achieve. Many advocates fought hard for the rights of people of color and we see the effects of their work today, such as integration in eatery’s, bathrooms and in transportation.
© Image by Biography.com
HBCUs are definitely affected by the works of the Civil Rights movement and others that helped pave the way for them to achieve good education. Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 forbids any discrimination from the educational programs and other institutions that receive federal financial aid. Delaware State University is one example of an HBCU that has experienced hardship and triumph over its 125+ years as an educational institution. When Delaware State University first opened, it was originally called the Delaware College for Colored Students, which meant mostly black students went there. At first, it was a small college, but with the help of many black presidents of the university, such as Jerome Holland, the college grew and became what it is today. With time, other minorities have come to DSU, such as Latinos who are Dreamers, who came to the U.S. at a young age, without documentation, but are able to get an education and are able to have a brighter future.
The importance of Black History Month for an HBCU cannot be stressed enough. Students need to recognize the people who came before and who set them up for the paths that they have today. Knowing the past can allow individuals to change the future because they do not want history to repeat itself. The fact that young, black students have a chance to get an education and, for many, be first-generation college graduates, is an amazing accomplishment and it should be thought of as a gift as a result of the struggles of the past.
“With respect to African-Americans, we have had to go through a lot of obstacles in this country– slavery, bigotry, segregation, and the like. You cannot have a decent appreciation for your current liberties without knowledge of how we had to overcome past injustices, and that lack of appreciation could very well lead to taking for granted the opportunities you currently have,” explains Carlos Holmes, Director of News Services at Delaware State University. If people do not understand the barriers that were broken in the past, then how can they push forward?
© Image by Delawarestatenews.net, Carlos Holmes, Director Of News Services
Furthermore, Holmes explains the importance of Black History Month at a Historically Black College/University, such as Delaware State University. “Because HBCUs are institutions of higher education, it should be at the forefront of Black History education. Such HBCU’s have countless resources – its libraries, its academic disciplines, as well as its faculty and administrators that lived through the civil rights years of the 1950s, 60s and 70s – from which much Black History can be illuminated and accessed,” suggests Holmes.
HBCU’s have a certain responsibility to uphold and remember the past in order to move forward. “Black History Month is important at an HBCU because it highlights snapshots into this multi-faceted history,” explains Donna Patterson, Director of Africana Studies, at Delaware State University. Students need to do more in order to really understand what Black History month is all about. “While some students at DSU take African American history, African American literature, and African studies courses, a significant percentage graduate without exposure to these courses. Black History month events are able to fill in some, but not all of the gaps that study and reading will,” warns Patterson.
© Image by newamerica.org
Knowing this, many students need to educate themselves and appreciate where they are now, compared to how it was for students their age some 70 years ago.
When Carlos Holmes was asked: “How can black students learn from the past and educate further generations to change the future?” he replies, “African American students cannot adequately learn about our Black History past without having the requisite curiosity about the subject matter. We also live in the age of the Internet, which contains a vast range of history at our fingertips. But you have to have enough interest to utilize it. If we don’t understand our history, we are ultimately condemned to repeat it. If we gain a great understanding of our history, then we are armed with information that is essential to have if we are to come up with strategies and solutions to effectively address the current problems,” urges Holmes.
The most important thing that Holmes mentioned was the fact that if we do not understand our history, then we are ultimately condemned to repeat it. This is an important fact because students need to fully comprehend the extreme difficulties that were at hand for African Americans. In order to have a better life in America, education was very important to have and, back then, there were not many opportunities for black youth to go to college.
Black History Month is a critical month. It celebrates the accomplishments of Black people and their importance. But it also highlights how far African Americans have come, and also how far they have to go.
Here at Delaware State University, there will be events held to commemorate Black History Month. “This month at DSU, BHM events explore a variety of themes including documentaries on the history of DSU, commentary on hip hop and sports, as well as artistic expression,” expresses Patterson. There will be a screening of the PBS documentary “Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Black Colleges and Universities,” planned on Thursday, February 15th, at the Martin Luther King Jr. Center on the 2nd floor parlors.
© Image by Steve Conklin, YOUniversityTV, The Martin Luther King Jr. Center, where the PBS documentary will be held.
There is another event planned on Tuesday, February 20th, called “The Politics of African American Health,” at the Education and Humanities Theatre, which includes Dr. Sylvia Trent-Adams, the U.S. Deputy Surgeon General. So, DSU students, remember to appreciate your history and come support and celebrate Black History Month.