Black History Month: Celebration of Triumph
February 9, 2015
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By: Ellisa B.‘15 Editor-in-Chief
Since 1976, February has been a time to celebrate the story of struggle and culture of African Americans in America, from their passage from their motherland to the present.
The event began as “Negro History Week,” which was the result of a movement lead by the historian Carter G. Woodson to promote the study of African American history, a subject that had barely been explored before 1975. “Negro History Week” was made official with the Message on the Observance of Black History Week made by President Gerald Ford in 1975.
The week was soon extended to a month in 1976 when President Ford issued the Message on the Observance of Black History Month that year. Presidents who followed Ford continued to issue these messages until in 1986 Congress passed Public Law 99-244 which made “National Black (Afro-American) History Month.”
America is not alone in its devotion of a month to celebrate black history. Canada and the United Kingdom also devote a month to black history.
However, for us Americans, between the shoulders of February, we pay homage to the achievements of African Americans who have overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles such as Jack Johnson, the first African-American man to hold the World Heavyweight Champion boxing title; Thurgood Marshall, the first African American appointed to the Supreme Court; Langston Hughes, the iconic poet of the Harlem Renaissance; Hattie McDaniel, the first African-American performer to win an Academy Award; and many more.
Samantha Pumblee ’15 said, “Black History Month is not a time to study African Americans. We should be doing that everyday along with the other great cultures of our nation. What Black History Month is meant for is taking the time to go into depth about the how’s and why’s of the successes of a people and how they have triumphed despite being held back. It is meant to immerse ourselves in history so that we can appreciate the present and be prepared for the future.”
This time in February gives a time to explore not only the history and culture of African Americans, but the diverse cultures and histories that make up our globe.
Ursuline recognizes the importance of celebrating the differences of all cultures through its commitment to global education and exploration, for great ideas and beautiful life philosophies come from all different types of people and cultures.
For instance, two of the most important inventions to our modern world, penicillin and the printing press, were developed by men who were not American. Penicillin was discovered by Alexander Fleming, a Scottish scientist, in 1928, and the printing press was invented by Johannes Gutenberg, a German, in 1440.
Students have to be prepared for the world, which does not deal in purely black and white terms, so Ursuline uses its resources to allow its students to study global issues through many lenses. In addition the school believes that through global awareness, students are better able to be advocates for social justice and understand universal human dignity.
Briana Robison ’15, President of the African American Awareness club, said, “I believe diversity is essentially an idea that goes far beyond race and ethnicity. It evaluates every aspect of an individual from her gender to her socioeconomic status, and society has failed to realize these differences are what has caused to world to work. But it’s going to take acknowledgement, understanding and acceptance of diversity for this world to not only work, but to work well. I think that Yolanda King said it best: “What we need to do is learn to respect and embrace our differences until our differences don’t make a difference in how we are treated.””
Another way Ursuline expresses this is through travel to sister schools. The trips for this year begin
in March and April with Ursuline traveling to Ursuline Beijing Huaxia Girls’ School in Beijing, China, and Colegio Santa Ursula in Santiago, Chile, respectively.
The school travels in the spring to Colegio Santa Ursula, in Ribeirao Preto, Brazil, and trips will continue into the summer with a visit to Ursuline High School, in Wimbledon, England.
In addition, Ursuline invites its sister schools to visit. This school year, Colegio Santa Ursula from Ribeirao Preto, Brazil; Ursuline High School from Wimbledon, England; and Colegio Santa Ursula in Lima, Peru will come to Dallas.
Possible future visits include Ursuline Academy from Wilmington, Del., and Brescia House School in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Ursuline students also show their dedication to cultural diversity through a variety of clubs and activities, including Model UN, NAIS 20/20 Challenges, NAIS People of Color Conference & Student Diversity Leadership Conference, Global Youth Leadership Institutes (GYLI), Peace One Day, Junior World Affairs Council (JWAC), Dallas Area Diversity Youth Organization, African American Awareness, Latinas Unidas, Asian Student Union and Girls Assisting Global Awareness (GAGA).
“JWAC offers students the chance to learn about global issues from experts that range from academics to politicians. However, the most important part of JWAC is how it inspires members to be leaders and to start discussions about global issues and more,” said Shannon Burton ’15, a member of JWAC.
All of these clubs have a number of focuses; however, they are all united in the fact that all their focuses concern finding unique solutions to specific global issues.
So, yes, while February is the perfect time to learn about amazing African Americans like George Washington Carver, Hiram Rhodes Revels, Shirley Chisholm and Dr. Mae Jemison, learning and understanding the differences of all others should be a year round occupation.