We the People: Curing the Plague of Ignorance during Black History Month
As young educators in the making, we all live for teachable moments. Each day we are taking in new information, experiences and attitudes, and most of these experiences are shared with friends, family or even other staff members here at Grand Valley State University. Unfortunately, a student has decided to misuse his/her First Amendment right, by putting hateful slander on a Black female student’s door, and we the National Pan-Hellenic Council, would like to take a moment to properly correct this student and anyone else who may identify with the words placed on the white board, or emotions inferred from the slander.
To those of you who may be opposed to celebrating other ethnicities in special months, allow us to explain why Black History Month is relevant:
Black History Month began as the second week in February in 1926 (in celebration of the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Fredrick Douglass, respectively), created by Carter G. Woodson, a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., in celebration and to inspire teachers to teach students about African-American contributions to our country. It wasn’t until years later in 1976 on the wave of Civil Rights, the development of Black History Studies, and our nation’s bi-centennial that our Michigan President Gerald R. Ford, endorsed the change from going from a week to a month.
Most students do not know that “Daniel Hale Williams was the first man to staff an interracial hospital and perform the first open-heart surgery in the U.S.; that Ernest Everrett Just was the pioneer in areas including fertilization, experimental parthenogenesis, hydration, cell division, dehydration in living cells and ultraviolet carcinogenic radiation effects on cells; Charles Drew pioneered methods of storing blood plasma for transfusion and organized the first blood bank in the U.S; Bessie Coleman was the first black woman to earn a pilot’s licensed by going to France to learn French and be trained there to fly and then come back to the U.S. to fly; or that our beloved Super Soaker was created by Lonnie Johnson” (biography.com): ALL AFRICAN AMERICANS.
It’s foolish to omit blacks or any other race for that matter from the master narrative of our great country. Before Christopher Columbus came to the “new” world, America was a place, with inhabitants, and were doing fine without the domination of another group. The challenge then, is to stay honest about our history, acknowledge everyone involved, and respect the complex color arrangement of who we are as a nation. Our history negates contributions, ideals, ethnicities, and truths in hope to create a more “picturesque” representation of who we are. If we as a nation, a Laker nation for that matter, were to take seriously the opportunities to learn why black history is relevant to each and every one of us, then we could begin a journey of healing and forwardness. If we as a Laker Student Body chose to not take advantage of the programs, classes, faculty, students, or to even read this article, then slanderous words will always be found on someone’s door. Knowledge is power, and ignorance is bliss. Choose to be empowered.
Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.
Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.
Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.
Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc.
Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc.
Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc.
Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc.
Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc.
Iota Phi Theta Fraternity, Inc.