Recognizing and Re-Learning Black American History

Photo courtesy of Grace VanHaitsma, Opinion Editor

Story by Culture Editor Leah Ash

February is nationally recognized as Black History Month, a period in time spent recognizing the various struggles, injustices, and accomplishments of the African American people. 

According to Esperanza Garcia, the Student Engagement Coordinator for the Center for Diversity, Inclusion and Equity (CDI&E), “we take this month to have events and resources that are exclusively about Black American history and culture.”

“Community and education go hand in hand,” said Garcia. “Having a space where you feel heard in the community allows people to be more receptive to information and to ask questions – and that’s what we strive for in our events.”

This February, in an effort to learn, revisit and celebrate Black American history, CDI&E created the “Re-Learning Black American History Book Club.” This program invites students to sign up in groups to read the various books and talk about them together. 

“There is still so much of Black American history to learn and to revisit even,” said Garcia. “Having this in mind, we decided to provide resources for groups to do just that, learn and revisit.”

Photo courtesy of Grace VanHaitsma, Opinion Editor

The books in the program are all children’s books, which make them easy to read and discuss. In addition, Garcia stated that “children’s books are used in particular because they can all take us to square one of these topics while also holding valuable information in a way that may not feel as emotionally taxing as a collection of essays.”

There were also other events held throughout the month. CDI&E partnered with Voices Inspiring Black Students Everywhere (VIBE) to host the event “Food from the African Diaspora and Powerful Quotes” on Thursday, February 16. 

Chez Olga, a Caribbean restaurant in Eastown, catered the event. While students enjoyed the delicious food, both the president, Nachaela Trice, and vice president, Justin Davis, of VIBE stood up and gave inspirational quotes and phrases from Black Americans. 

“Black History Month is a beautiful thing, and I wish it was more than just a month,” said Trice. “Activism should be year round. Black is beautiful.”

On Thursday, February 23, students can attend a movie showing of Judas and the Black Messiah. 

Judas and the Black Messiah depicts the events that led to the murder of Fred Hampton, the Chairman of the Illinois Chapter of the Black Panthers,” said Garcia. 

This event is intended as an opportunity for students to learn about Fred Hampton, the Black Panthers and see what the revolution looked like in our neighboring state of Illinoiss. Students should be aware this film has racially charged language as well as depictions of police brutality. 

For resources, information and more on Black History Month, check out the CDI&E website: