February is Black History Month, and the Peralta Colleges will be celebrating all month long. Merritt College President David M. Johnson, in an email to the Merritt Community, described the history of this month of remembrance: “Black History Month grew out of a celebration that was first noted as Negro History Week back on February 7, 1926. Carter G. Woodson, the proclaimed “Father of Black History,” conceived of this commemorative week as a means to draw greater attention to and appreciation of the contributions of African Americans. He felt that February was the most appropriate time to contemplate these things, given that Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln were born in that month. Woodson was also the editor of the Journal of Negro History (1915-1950), which was the first scholarly publication to consistently and thoughtfully chronicle the experiences of Black people in this country, and throughout the diaspora. When asked why the study of his people was important, Woodson replied thoughtfully, “If a race has no history, it has no worthwhile tradition, it becomes a negligible factor in the thought of the world, and it stands in danger of being exterminated.” By the mid-1970s, the celebration had become Black History Month, and endorsed by President Ford as a national observance." President Johnson adds: "And today it still affords us the opportunity for collective celebration, appreciation, and reflection of an experience inextricably linked to our American history and destiny."
Laney President Rudy Besikof notes that at Laney and online “
In that spirit, it is important to remember that Black History Month is not just a time to look back at past achievements. Berkeley City College President Dr. Angélica Garcia succinctly describes how “
College of Alameda President Nathaniel Jones III, in a powerful Panel Discussion organized by PAAAA of faculty, staff, students, and leadership, held to kick off Black History Month, noted that despite the success stories of the individuals on the panel who had made it to a place where they could be present at such a gathering, “The challenge and the issue is that the numbers [of black people making it successfully through higher ed.] are still far too few. We know that there is and continues to be an academic achievement gap and we need to dramatically examine, redesign, and to bring into greater focus an urgency for change, transforming the methodologies and the structures in which we engage in education." (View the full event HERE)
In these words there is a challenge: to continue to examine what we do every day in order to work together to provide a brighter future for this and subsequent generations of black people in a country built upon structures seeking to deny that progress.
- PS - Download the image at the top of this post for use as a Zoom background!
Black History Month Background