By Emma Russell and Meagan Kennedy
Student Life Editor & Elm Staff Writer
February is recognized as Black History month, “an annual celebration of achievements by African Americans and a time for recognizing their central role in [United States] history,” according to History.com editors.
In 1915, historian Carter G. Woodson and minister Jesse Moorland founded the Association of African American Life and History. In 1926, they designated the second week in February, National Negro History week. In the following decades, the week grew in popularity, and because of the Civil Rights Movement, “Negros History Week has evolved into Black History Month on many college campuses,” the History.com editors said.
“The event was first celebrated during a week in 1926 that encompassed the birthdays of both Abraham Lincoln and Fredrick Douglass. The response was overwhelming: Black history clubs sprang up; teachers demanded materials to instruct their pupils; and progressive whites, not simply white scholars and philanthropists, stepped forward to endorse the effort,” the African American History Month website, in collaboration with the Library of Congress, said.
Black History Month was officially recognized by former President Gerald Ford in 1976.
While some Washington College students are back on campus, social distancing guidelines prohibit how many students can gather in one place, and any gatherings on campus would exclude those students who decided not to return to Chestertown. To combat these issues, WC clubs and departments have taken a different approach to celebrate Black History Month this year: utilizing the power of social media.
“Social media has become an essential asset in reaching people. We use it to send out necessary information to maintain communication with our community along with other platforms,” Social Chair of the Black Student Union sophomore Mariama Keita said.
According to Keita, BSU shares different information on their Instagram page, @wacbsu, including stories from Black alumni and current students, and promoting Black-owned businesses.
Businesses like Sad Smiley, a clothing brand owned by James Anthony, and Baked by Jocelyn, a pastry and makeup company, have been featured on BSU’s Instagram.
“Supporting Black-owned businesses brings attention to local creative business owners. There’s talent within our community, and we thought it should be showcased, bringing awareness to them. Additionally, purchasing from small businesses supports the local community and helps individuals instead of larger corporations. Supporting Black businesses in any form ultimately helps the Black community,” Keita said.
Keita also encourages students and alumni alike to share their stories on social media, “because it recognizes the history that has taken place.”
“Black history and African Americans’ achievements are not just limited to a month; it’s every day. History is in the making. Celebrating Black achievements is essential to give recognition to those that have paved the way for us and continue to be trailblazers,” she said.
BSU is hosting a collaborative event with the Office of Intercultural Affairs. An installation of the “Real Talk” series, “Centering the Black Experience in Higher Education,” will be held on Feb. 26 from 5–6 p.m. via Zoom.
WC’s English Department has also been making posts about Black History Month on their Instagram account, @washcollenglish.
The English Department released a list of book recommendations, including “Beloved” by Toni Morrison, “Women, Race & Class” by Angela Y. Davis, and “Cables to Rage” by Audre Lorde.
The account also linked a list written by Corinne Segal on Literary Hub detailing almost 100 Black-owned bookstores across the country.
Some Maryland bookstores include Loyalty Bookstore in Silver Spring, Wisdom Book Center in Gwynn Oak, and Everyone’s Place in Baltimore.
A Black Studies Symposium will be recurring throughout the semester dives into topics like “Ruling while Black” on Feb. 16 or “Publishing while Black,” which will take place April 6.
Students are also encouraged to participate in Black History Month on their own, watching movies, reading, or participating in other cultural celebrations honoring the history and future of Black lives and culture.
“Judas and the Black Messiah,” a 2021 film directed by Shaka King, follows the rise to power and death of Fred Hampton, chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party.
Released on Feb. 1, the film has already collected a number of nominations for award season. Daniel Kaluuya has been nominated for Best Supporting Actor at both the Golden Globes and the Screen Actor Guild Awards, and the film has been nominated for Best Original Song at the Golden Globes.
“Juda and the Black Messiah” can be streamed on HBO Max.
“One Night in Miami” (2020), the directorial debut of Regina King, explores the possible meeting of Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X, Jim Brown, and Sam Cooke in 1964, where they discuss and debate the Civil Rights Movement.
“Centered on the night of Cassius Clay’s famed upset of Sonny Liston in 1964, making Clay, before he became known as Muhammad Ali, the heavyweight champion of the world,” The New York Times writer Adrienne Gaffney said.
“One Night in Miami” is also nominated for the Golden Globe for Best Director, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Original Song.
“One Night in Miami” is available on Amazon Prime Video.
Like films, books are another great way to celebrate Black History Month.
One of the most popular books of last year still holds a classic read. Written by Brit Bennett, “The Vanishing Half” is an incredible story about friendship, family, identity, race, and love in a small town.
Rhiannon Walton, a reviewer for Powell’s Bookstore said “The Vanishing Half” is an “addictive book that raises vital questions about colorism, kinship, identity…Brit Bennett, who’s been a writer to watch since ‘The Mothers’ debuted, excels at intergenerational storytelling and articulating the forceful, conflicted emotions of characters dealing with the constraints of small-town life, racial identity, and the types of secrets that forever alter a life’s trajectory.”
Whether it’s shopping at Black-owned businesses, listening to stories about Black experiences, watching films on Black leaders, or reading book by Black authors, there is no shortage of ways to celebrate Black History Month this February, and every month after that.