As students migrate back to Durham and into their dorms, they are being met with the requirements of coronavirus (COVID-19) self-testing, signing prerequisite pledges and maintaining a valid Wildcat Pass, but they are also arriving just in time for the annually commemorated “Black History Month.”
Celebrated every February, Black History Month recognizes the critical instances, accomplishments and people of the African diaspora through countless generations. It was first celebrated in 1970 at Kent State University, after Black faculty members and students proposed the idea. Just six years later, in 1976, it was nationally recognized by President Gerald Ford as he encouraged citizens to value the accolades of African American people, past and present.
While the history of the African diaspora shouldn’t be relegated to a single month of recognition, this is still a valuable time to educate oneself about the historical strength and perseverance of the African American community despite being enslaved and disenfranchised for centuries. Also, it’s essential to understand African American history when addressing recent racially charged incidents, such as the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.
Since these incidents, the University of New Hampshire (UNH) has released their Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) strategic initiatives. These center around the idea of building more diverse and inclusive groups of people at the university, while simultaneously creating a more inclusive environment around them.
Many of UNH’s individual colleges have also released statements on social and racial injustice in the past year as well.
On Feb. 1, N.H. Gov. Chris Sununu proclaimed the second month of 2021 as Black History Month in the state. In a press release he stated that “the Granite state has a long history and tradition of standing with the African American community to ensure that those in our great state know a way of life that is free from hatred and inequality, and one that embraces all our residents…”
He noted that African Americans have had a great impact on America’s successful history through business, societal, governmental and artistical practices.
At times, it can be a struggle to figure out how best to celebrate and support African American history no matter your race. How can you support your fellow citizens in a way that will educate yourself and prepare you to think critically when discussing race in society?
Thankfully UNH has provided its students, faculty and staff with a series of resources to help with this process.
Spanning from Feb. 5 to Feb. 26, NPR will be hosting virtual podcast sessions every Friday in the “Amplify: Turning up the Volume on Black Voices” initiative. These will have Zoom links that will allow participants to collaborate on various racial ideals and experience the power of African American voices. UNH’s Beauregard Center and Sexual Harassment and Rape Prevention Program (SHARPP).
Other Zoom events throughout the month include, “Racism, Land & The American Farming Landscape,” ”Securing Frailty: Racial Inequities and Aspirations for Senior Housing in South Africa” and “Confronting the Racial Wealth Gap: Black Americans’ Landholding and Economic Mobility after Emancipation,” among many others. These are meant to be collaborative events that address different aspects of African American history and the impact that it has had on our present-day perception of race.
UNH’s Durham campus is home to the I AM 400 art banner in Dimond Library that was painted by Jerome W. Jones and his son, Jeromyah. The banner features a multitude of portraits of influential African Americans throughout a 400-year period and highlights the trailblazers with a little or great amount of historical exposure.
Food Solutions New England will also be putting on the UNH 21-Day Racial Equity Habit-Building Challenge. This will bring a more light-hearted and course-like approach to education about cultural appropriation and how to speak about race-related issues in America. UNH Chef Todd Sweet will be hosting cooking demonstrations throughout the challenge that starts on April 5 and ends on April 25.
While not being in the month of February, the 21-Day Racial Equity Habit-Building Challenge helps to build an individual’s positive social justice tendencies. The challenge will serve as a tool for the faculty and student body to approach racial inequities and possible resolutions for them.
Other Black History Month Resources to further educate yourself:
Center for Racial Justice in Education
National Museum of African American History & Culture
Teaching Tolerance: Why we need Black History Month
Photo courtesy of the University of New Hampshire