GBT.org illustration/DYLAN ROWE & KATE FERNANDEZ
With February comes Black History Month, a chance to honor Black Americans who changed the course of history and made the world a better, more equal place.
According to Advanced Placement U.S. history teacher Brandon Dell’Orto, the idea to dedicate a month to the celebration of black history arose from a movement inspired by Malcolm X.
“One of the biggest criticisms that Malcolm X had of Martin Luther King was that he was selling out his African-American heritage to be accepted as a white person that just happened to have black skin,” Dell’Orto said.
“Out of Malcom X’s black nationalism movement came out this idea that ‘you should be ok to be proud of where you come from and the nation should know the things we added to it, that we’re not just a second thought.’”
Senior Jeremiah Onyongo said he feels empowered by this mentality and wants black history to be recognized for the importance it has played.
“African Americans have a rich history in the development of America that is often overlooked due to white people having control over the stories and historical details,” Onyongo said. “Our textbooks and history lessons often focus on the European or white American perspective of the past.”
Bringing black history to the surface of the story can make people aware of heroes that often go unrecognized.
“Dislocated Africans built this country with free labor and they built upon that with so many great achievements after and that history is never usually told truthfully in traditional history classes,” Senior Alonzo Cannon said.
“Black History Month means time to reminisce on the fight of my ancestors who fought for my freedom, education, and civil rights and to remind myself to continue to fight for fair treatment for all marginalized groups.”
Senior Jada Harper celebrates Black History Month as a way to bring people together as well.
“It is important to acknowledge our differences in a respectful and honorable way,” Harper said. “Speaking about race often makes people uncomfortable which shouldn’t be the case. How can we learn about other races when we are too afraid to talk about it?”
February gives all Americans time to consider how much our country has progressed in terms of racial equality.
“Probably our biggest national stain is that for so long, we allowed this institution (of slavery) to not just exist, but to thrive,” Dell’Orto said. “And even when it ended, equality was still not achieved, so Black History Month is to remind ourselves of what we had done and what we need to make sure we never do again.”
Cannon said he hopes that celebrating Black History will help people understand the tensions of the past and result in a less ignorant future.
“I’ve been called (the N-word) dozens of times and the word has been used loosely around me at school and other places,” Cannon said. “I don’t want to categorize it as racism because I want to be optimistic and play it up to be extreme ignorance.”
Discussing these issues will help bring people together, Cannon believes.
“These problems are usually not talked about by the people who don’t experience them and it sometimes feels lonely being in the minority with these problems.”
Black History Month forces Americans to reconsider who is at the foreground of the story everyone knows.
The conversation it creates provides the nation with an opportunity to recognize and celebrate the diversity that exists here.
“The nation has to keep reminding itself that we’ve got to reach out from whatever’s comfortable and have these conversations,” Dell’Orto said. “This helps us remember what we’ve been as a nation, what we should not have ever allowed to happen as a nation, and what we should be as a nation.”
This story was originally published on GraniteBayToday.org on February 11, 2020.