Editorial: Much to learn from Black History Month


Mary Stempky

Senior Gabe Ratcliffe provided an insightful and powerful presentation at the Black History Month assembly on Feb. 5.

Megaphone Staff

In 1926, historian Carter G. Woodson declared the second week of February be observed as Black History Week. Black United Students group proposed the week be extended throughout the entire month, and in 1970 February was named Black History Month, focused on achievements by African American artists, leaders and innovators.

Over the decades, the recognition granted to this holiday has increased, and inspired through both the tenacity of Civil Rights leaders before them and an intolerance for continued oppression, leaders in communities throughout the nation have sparked another revolution: Black Lives Matter.

The Movement for Black Lives webpage summarizes their mission as “Black humanity and dignity requires Black political will and power. Despite constant exploitation and perpetual oppression, Black people have bravely and brilliantly been the driving force pushing the U.S. towards the ideals it articulates but has never achieved.”

Black History Month celebrates the very ideals pushed for by the Black Lives Matter movement: the recognition, respect, dignity and equity for a historically marginalized group.

It is due to these similarities that Black History Month assists in furthering the Black Lives Matter movement’s goal by overlapping in many methods of spreading awareness. For instance, schools and marches often feature art through the form of music or poetry.

Perhaps the most popular writer and inspiration is Maya Angelou, the civil rights activist and poet who is credited for many works illustrating a fight for equity and honor. Her “Phenomenal Woman” celebrates the beauty of African American women and promotes self-confidence. This poem is often recited at gatherings which celebrate this culture, whether it be during the month-long holiday in February or during a rally promoting African American rights. It has even been formed into a song.

Using works created by prominent and influential artists like Angelou, the Black Lives Matter movement is able to reach a wider audience. While a large march or demonstration may gain attention, many who watch the event from the outside will not hear the speakers or even entirely understand the purpose of the gathering. However, by specifying a month to teach students about the suppression of an entire ethnicity within our country, the United States promotes the respect of African American writers, innovators, leaders, scientists, teachers and more who, because of a biased system, might otherwise go without adequate appreciation.

Black History Month fights to memorialize African American leaders, events and cultures which are too often hidden by a system historically turned against them. Black Lives Matter fights to prevent a future need to uncover exceptional individuals concealed by a discriminatory societal structure. Together, these ideas build on each other, creating an outlook of equity, respect and love.