In February, students and faculty of Estrella Mountain Community College (EMCC) showed their appreciation for American history by celebrating Black History Month.
All month long the college was hosting events to celebrate and educate the community on the achievements and contributions African Americans have made to American culture. Events featured cultural exploration, commemoration of prominent leaders, and various educational workshops and lectures.
Among the proceedings was the second annual Black History Conference, a program focused on educating college and high school students in depth about the different aspects of black history. Director of Student Life and Leadership/Athletics, Herschel Jackson has been involved in coordinating this event since its debut last year, and was ecstatic about the turnout of over 400 students, 35 of which were still in high school.
For Jackson, the purpose lay heavily in educating about the deep impact African Americans have had on American history. He stated, “History books teach us about Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks, but there is a rich history neglected. It’s a shame it’s not taught to children from very early on.”
An article about Black History Month entitled “The Debate Rages On” expresses the notion that with all the accomplishments in racial equality, some feel Black History Month is unnecessary or even racist. Jackson disagreed, expressing a need for change in educational representation, “Ideally, history books would have a comprehensive outline of all immigrant development. American history is a melting pot, but currently history books only focus on the dominant elements, while glossing over minority contributions.”
Honors Program Director and English Professor, Alexander Andrews, echoed a desire for better education about black history. “My biggest grievance is that history books, particularly K-12, teach slavery as a side note, when actually it was a major event in our country. The economic benefits of slavery propelled us to becoming the richest and most powerful nation.” This fact is confirmed in an article entitled “Agriculture in History”, which states that agricultural slavery was highly profitable for the U.S. In 1860, cotton exports alone accounted for nearly 60 percent of the nation’s total exports.
EMCC student Christopher Poole felt that black history is essentially American history, and should be celebrated year round. When discussing the struggles of African Americans today he said, “There are still barriers before us. Stereotypes are still prevalent, and racism still exists, just slightly subdued.” Poole cited poor portrayal of African Americans and other minority cultures in the media as a factor and said we needed to follow Dr. King’s dream and unite.
From students to administration, the message was clear: Black History Month is not only a time to celebrate and honor African Americans, African American culture and contributions to our society, but also to focus on what we can do to better our future in becoming the best and most culturally inclusive nation in the world.