For years, February has been a designated month to acknowledge and celebrate the vast accomplishments of African-American people throughout history. Black History Month started off as Negro History Week, which was created by Historian Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, and first celebrated in 1926. Negro History Week occurred the same week as the birthdays of President Abraham Lincoln and abolitionist Frederick Douglas, who are two prominent figures in Black history. Negro History Week evolved into Black History Month, which was insitiutionalized in 1976 by President Gerald Ford with a proclamation that has been renewed every year by each president since. “Black History Month means representation to me, it means taking time to recognize our progress but to also recognize what we still need to do,” said Black Student Union President Talia Hamilton. “It is to celebrate and love Black culture, and so much more.”
Many people have been encouraging the expansion of Black History Month so that Black history is celebrated year-round rather than being restricted to February. Steps have already been taken in many places to integrate Black history into everyday school lessons. For example, starting next year, a Black Studies course will be offered to high school students throughout the Santa Barbara school district, and Ethnic Studies courses are already being taught. “Although Black History Month is a separate month,” the Santa Barbara school board stated in a recent resolution, “it’s important to remember that Black History is not something “other than” American history.”
Every year a theme is selected for Black History Month, with this year’s theme being The Black Family: Representation, Identity, and Diversity. In honor of Black History Month and this theme, multiple local organizations such as Healing Justice Santa Barbara have come together to organize a series of virtual events that will take place throughout the month. These events, which are dedicated to celebrating and honoring the contributions of African-Americans in our community, will include Black led storytimes, yoga, art, and discussion panels. Additionally, the Santa Barbara Unified School Board passed a resolution that voiced their support for the celebration of Black History Month in the school district and reiterated their commitment to anti-racism, equity, and the Black Lives Matter movement.
Within the San Marcos community, various activities and events are occurring to spread awareness about Black History Month among students. One event is that San Marcos’s Black Student Union has taken over the ASB Instagram account and will be posting about Black history throughout the month. They have already posted a few times, with one of the postings sharing the recommendations of Ethnic Studies teacher Ms. Powers for books by Black authors. The post features books such as The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, and Stamped by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi. In addition, the Black Student Union will be holding meetings more frequently this month to dive deeper into Black culture and history. Black Student Union members who are a part of Black Student Youth Santa Barbara will also be collaborating with La Casa De La Raza to create a special Black History Month radio show.
Aside from the student organized activities, many teachers are making an effort to educate their students on the importance of this month.
“It’s important to teach about Black history and Black History month because Black history is American history,” said English Ethnic Studies teacher Ms. Lorenzano. “Black History does not begin with slavery and it is not limited to the Civil Rights Movement.”
To commemorate Black History Month in her class, Ms. Lorenzano, as well as other English Ethnic Studies teachers, are holding a raffle in which students look at videos, podcasts, art, and articles about Black History Month, write a paragraph on what they learned, and then submit it through a Google form. The winner will receive a book of their choice by a Black author.
With so many groups and people celebrating Black History Month, both in our town and at San Marcos, there are various ways to learn about the rich history of African-Americans.
“I’d tell students to really do their own research and just educate themselves on Black history,” said Black Student Union Vice President Shakir Ahmad. “There’s so many important things black folks have done that have affected us today that a lot of people don’t know about.”