Few celebrations are created with hopes that some day they will cease to exist.
Carter G. Woodson, the father of black history, wanted one week of the year dedicated to the important figures along with the progress that blacks have made. But in doing so, he dreamed that it would one day prove irrelevant.
As this February comes to a close, it marks the 37th year celebrating Black History Month, and 87th year since its humble beginnings as a week-long commemoration.
Tim Phillips, associate vice president and dean of students, believes we’re still not quite there, but there is “evidence to suggest that we have made great strides.”
“The reassuring thing is that many of our history books are being written and including prominent African American inventors, community members, leaders, those sorts of things and trying to put things into perspective,” Phillips said.
Ramona Amos, coordinator of intercultural life and leadership programs, organized the soul food dinner for Civil Rights Week and the gospel fest for Black History Month, a celebration which she believes is here to stay.
“I don’t think there will ever be a need not to have one,” she said. “I just think things may evolve more so where people don’t just focus on history from civil rights but newer history.”
In 2005, one widely-known figure in American culture spoke up about his view of Black History Month. Morgan Freeman was interviewed on 60 Minutes, and pointed out that “Black history is American history.”
This is not unlike other claims that have been made in regards to Black History month being racist, bringing forth the issue that only one month of the year is designated to commemorating Blacks’ achievements in American history. However, Amos doesn’t see it this way.
“It’s up to us to celebrate it more than just one month,” Amos said. “Just kind of like Valentine’s Day – it’s up to you to celebrate love every day, not just one day.”
Freeman also expressed his belief that racism won’t stop until we “stop talking about it.”
While Amos understands what he’s trying to say, she disagrees.
“I don’t think it will go away. I just think people won’t talk about it,” Amos said. “Sometimes you can make something more of a problem than what it is, but sometimes when a problem is there you have to address it.”
Phillips also feels that if anything is going to change, talking about it is exactly what needs to happen.
“We’re generally fearful of having conversations about race and we typically kneejerk into corners of defenses,” Phillips said. “The purpose of talking about race and its impact is so that we understand both histories, we understand where each other is, we honor that, and we create relationships to move forward in a productive way. Many of our conversations right now are not real productive.”