Faculty column: What Black History Month means to me

By Yelando Johnson, Guest Writer: Faculty

If you ever walk into my office, it is quite evident that black history is important to me every day.  Black history is indeed American history and should be recognized and sustained throughout the year. Since the inception of our imperfect union, black men and women have contributed to the foundational elements of our society—during the wretched system of slavery, the abolitionist movement, the Jim Crow era, the civil rights periods. Black men and women continue to fight for civil rights and social justice in the fields of education, politics, the arts, science and technology, entertainment and sports.

Although there is a lot of pain and suffering, shame and hate recorded in black history, there is also outstanding accomplishments, endurance, love, kindness, forgiveness and perseverance made by black people to preserve our race and culture that should be remembered and celebrated every day. To plan your future, you must know and understand the past.  We stand on the shoulders of giants who sacrificed to pave the way for a better tomorrow. These pioneers, activist, organizers, inventors and even some athletes of the past were involved in the fight for racial equality.

Growing up in New Orleans, to me, black history was celebrated year round. You had everything from the jazz to blues music festivals, cajun to creole cuisines, historic landmarks and museums, mardi gras, Indian dancers, home going second line parades and other activities throughout the year that honor and celebrate black culture and history in general.  Growing up learning about the strong will of our African ancestors conquering their right to freedom, earning the right to vote and fighting for civil rights, lets me know there’s nothing that can take your freedom as long as you keep standing up for your rights and what you believe in.

Our nation is the greatest melting pot. No matter how things seem politically, we must remember that the United States was built on the backs of immigrants, people from different cultures and backgrounds. It’s what makes the United States so unique compared to other countries. It is important that colleges and universities embrace diversity and cultural awareness because we need to encourage people from all walks of life to continue to grow through education.

Black History Month is extremely important to the Black Student Union, especially because of everything that it represents. The theme for this year’s celebration is “Black Excellence.” It is a month that highlights black contributions in America and throughout the world in academics, philanthropy, business, nonprofits and more. BSU will utilize this month to educate the Newman community about the black culture and how multifaceted it is.  Institutions for higher education are becoming increasingly diverse, not just in the terms of racial and ethnic identity, but also in age, cultural identity, religious and spiritual identity, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, physical and mental ability, nationality, social and economic status and political and ideological perspectives. It is a fact there is a link between diversity experiences and a wide range of individual, institutional, and societal benefits, including critical thinking, intellectual engagement, interactional diversity, vocational preparation and civic engagement.

The Black Student Union Executive Officers were very passionate about making Black History Month special this year as nothing was really done last year on our campus. The Newman community is encouraged to actively engage in the celebration of Black History Month.

PHOTO: YELANDO JOHNSON is the director for Newman’s Bachelor of Social Work program and the adviser for the Black Student Union. Courtesy Photo, Yelando Johnson