Celebrating Black History Month

February is Black History Month, dedicated to acknowledging, honoring, and celebrating our African American peers, historical figures, and friends. But the way one celebrates is important, especially on campus.  Celebrating is only half the battle, as being informed on why we celebrate it is just as valuable. Pleasant Valley students and staff aim to make changes in the curriculum because they both believe representing people of all backgrounds is not only important but necessary. Almost a responsibility.

Within the English department, many teachers are given the responsibility to educate their classes on pieces of literature with African American history behind them. English teacher Amy Besnard strives to have her classes be educated and exposed to the sides of history that are not typically shown. She believes that teachers “have a responsibility… to be honest and to have the hard uncomfortable conversations [with students].” With those uncomfortable conversations, “sometimes you have to sit in the discomfort”; they allow for authentic interest and exploration to take root into the hidden pieces of history.

“In addition, the history department aims to educate in a way that’s wholly inclusive without being superficial. We teach Black History throughout the entire year. For me, as we move into February we’re looking at World War II. In our classes we will teach lessons about the contributions of African American soldiers and the men and women on the home front [who] took on many additional roles. Much of this history has been erased or forgotten,” said Social Science department chairperson Beth Burton.

“Why do we have Martin Luther King Day, but only read ‘Letter From Birmingham Jail,’ in an AP class?” Burton added, “Those people who posted a quote yesterday [Martin Luther King Jr. Day] probably wouldn’t have supported Dr. King back in the 1960s.” 

Many hands helped sculpt the world as we know it today, but unfortunately, their names go unknown or overlooked. There are ways to educate oneself, but it’s not always easy or something that frequently comes up in conversation. In order to celebrate the ones who have been overlooked, S.A.F.E. club plans to implement announcements throughout the month, shedding light on black activists, artists, inventors, and thinkers who lack the recognition they deserve. As Besnard states, “It’s important for all of us to see ourselves represented in some way, to be inspired by those that went down the road first.”

Although there isn’t a perfect way to celebrate Black History Month, striving to understand the extent of African American history is the first step in the right direction. Even a little bit of exposure to the major influence that African Americans had on the world will allow for a respectful and well-acknowledged celebration of black history in its entirety. Happy Black History Month!