As we mark and observe the 90th year of the inception of what was then called Negro History Week, now known as Black History Month, let me be clear, this is a celebration for all people. And it is my hope that everyone, including our local public officials, businesses, schools, churches, civic organizations and all community members will find some way to play a part in making our February 2016 Black History Month more meaningful and memorable.
For the part they played in encouraging their students to participate in the 2016 Black History Month poster contest, sponsored by the local chapter of the N. C. A&T Alumni Association, I want to thank the following teachers:
Megan Scronce, Sampson Middle; Lesley Al Ten, Midway Middle; Rochelle Friend,
Charles E. Perry ALC; Michael Ray, Clinton High; Sarah Cone, Sampson Early
College; and Jennifer Jackson, Hobbton High.
Seeing a need to recognize and celebrate the contributions and achievements made by African Americans to the American culture, a black studies group cal led the Association for the Study of Negro Life and Hi story, now known as the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH), was organized in 1915. This group was led by Carter G. Woodson, the Father of Black History, who launched the first Negro History Week in February 1926.
By celebrating the contributions and achievements made by African Americans, Carter G. Woodson wanted to use knowledge about the black past, not only to instill pride in black American heritage, but he also sought to inspire blacks to strive for excellence, instilling the value of education. Woodson also viewed learning about bl ack history and culture as a key factor in the struggle for racial uplift.
Concerning the debate over the relevance of Black History Month today, it is my firm belief that this celebration is needed now, more than ever, especially in our schools. Black History Month must remain a tool in our community’s efforts to re-instill that historic resolve of excellence and achievement among our youth, helping them become more culturally-centered.
Further, it is my ardent belief that black history as a curriculum should be incorporated into our k-12 school curriculum as it is a vehicle to motivate and inspire our children and youth. Black history school curriculum advocates believe, “when kids understand they come from a line of ancestors who have done great things, they feel good about themselves and that shows up in better behavior. Those advocates also bel ieve black hi story curriculum could help fill that void in the development of black youth, helping to promote positive growth of self-esteem, attitudes and capabilities, which could help in cultivating young black scholars.
In support of Black History Month, earlier this month the Smithsonian announced that the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) will open to the public on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2016. According to the museum founding director Lonnie Bunch, “it will be a place for healing and reconciliation, a place where everyone can explore the story of America through the lens of the African American experience. The museum, too, will be a place for all people.
Yes, black hi story is a part of our American story. And we must continue to honor our struggle and ancestors, not only during Black History Month, but year-round. The sooner we get to “Black Hi story Year” the better off this nation will be. Then we can sing, “Facing the rising sun of our new day begun, let us march on till victory is won.”
Larry Sutton is a former teacher at Clinton High School.