“Black History Month shows that good can come out of any struggle,” said Ohio Northern University’s Black Student Union secretary, Nathaniel Dean. There may be good within any struggle, but what is Black History Month really about, and why do we celebrate it in America?
According to the “father of Black History”, Carter G. Woodson, “Those who have no record of what their forebears have accomplished lose the inspiration which comes from the teaching of biography and history.” This is why in 1926, Woodson sent out a press release announcing what was then called, Negro History Week, to celebrate black history in America and find inspiration to move forward.
Because both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass had celebrated birthdays in February, Woodson believed that this would be the perfect time to celebrate black history in America. After the Civil Rights movement had begun to change America, President Ford recognized Black History Month as a national holiday in 1976.
The Black Student Union at Ohio Northern University celebrated Black History Month with their annual Kuumba Fest this year. The event gave students in the union a stage to showcase their talents and participate in a fashion show. Dean said that the Kuumba Fest is, “just a good time to connect with ourselves and the full campus. It’s an opportunity for our members to share their talents or whatever they want to share with the whole campus”.
Dean emphasized that BSU and the celebration of Black History Month are all about creating a community, “If we can just find a way to dissolve the small divisions and just focus on the fact that we are all humans, then we will be strong enough to abolish those old norms. Just because it’s different doesn’t mean it’s wrong”.
Nathaniel Dean is a legacy student of Sherman and Lakeisha Dean carrying on as a secretary in the organization they helped form the Black Student Union on campus and held the first Kuumba fest. Nathaniel Dean remarked that he felt honored to be a part of something his parents helped start.
Black History Month is all about legacies like this. It was founded on the idea that moving forward is informed by looking back, and every year there is a theme to focus that historical gaze. This year’s theme is Health and Wellness. The idea is that black leaders working in health-related fields should be remembered and honored for their accomplishments.
One such person is Marilyn Hughes Gaston. Born in 1939, Gaston earned her medical degree in pediatrics from the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, graduating as one of 6 women in her class, and the only African American woman in that group of 6. Gaston went on to be a leading researcher for Sickle cell disease, recognized worldwide. She has also received every award the Public Health Service has to offer for her services to the field.
Gaston is just one of many black medical practitioners who have influenced the medical field and been instrumental in the care we receive today. Ten more of these pioneers were recognized in the Association of American Medical Colleges news article released in February of 2019.
Black History Month is “an inspiration, especially for college students. It can seem a little bleak for us, and seeing that other people have benefitted from the struggle helps to combat that,” according to Nathaniel Dean.
Now is the time to look back on all of the defiant, brazen accomplishments of the black community and take heart that the future is full of more astonishing discoveries and advancements.