by Grace Dempsey, Ella Hurwitz & Sarah Wei, News Reporters and News Editor
photo courtesy of Katani Sumner
Throughout the month of February, the United States celebrates the triumphs of the Black community and recognizes the struggles it has faced. Since 1976, every U.S. president has recognized Black History Month with a focus on a specific topic: this year’s theme is “Black Health and Wellness.”
At South, efforts are being made to extend celebrations of Black history beyond just February to the rest of the year.
On March 9, South will commemorate Black History Month with Black Culture Day, an annual event consisting of seminars and lectures hosted by the Black Student Union (BSU).
History teacher and South Human Rights Council (SHRC) co-director Robert Parlin said that in the past, the programs have not only educated participants on African American culture, but have also addressed pressing issues facing the Black community.
Similar to previous years, the day will be dedicated to highlighting Black heritage and obstacles through multiple presentations, BSU co-president Chimazuru Ibebunjo said.
“We’re bringing in people from different cultural backgrounds who are Black and … willing to share more about their culture, whether it’s food, dance or other aspects like that,” he said. “We’re also going to be talking about medical disparities in health care and childbirth for women.”
The event will likely also include a performance from an African dance troupe.
Ibebunjo said that ultimately, Black Culture Day draws attention to the influence of the Black community on everyday American life.
“Everyone should make the time to appreciate all the Black figures who have served our country and impacted the way our country is shaped,” he said.
Sophomore South senator Taban Malihi said that attending last year’s seminar on the appropriation of Black music raised her awareness about the typically unacknowledged Black impact on mainstream culture.
“It was really awesome to hear people discuss subversive ways that racism and class impact our subconscious understanding of Black history and culture in the U.S.,” she said. “I hadn’t realized that there were so many instances of appropriation that many of us were blind to until they brought it to our attention.”
Junior Dylan Yee said that the presentations, in general, provide necessary information that is not taught in classes.
English teacher and SHRC co-president Joana Chacón de Entwisle said that the day is essential to revisualizing the dominant narrative by which African Americans are commonly depicted.
“Oftentimes, when we as a school address communities of color, whether it’s in our curriculum or in our policies, it’s always negative. [If] there’s a problem that needs to be fixed or we’re talking about awful things that happened in history or really sad stories in English, it’s constantly trauma and tragedy,” she said.
“These festivals provide a celebration and put a spotlight on really cool things, people, initiatives, culture and tradition that bring joy to the community. [It also] creates bonds and strengthens ties between our communities of color and the school.”
Celebrating Black History Month is certainly valuable, but it cannot be the extent of education on Black culture and history, METCO counselor and BSU faculty advisor Katani Sumner said.
“Black history is every day, not just February,” she said. “[We should] incorporate it in everything we do and incorporate it in all of our history units and our program overall. It’s not like we pause to notice significant contributions by Black Americans, but instead, we’re incorporating it into everything else,” she said. “Things like that are meaningful and sustainable versus, ‘Oh, let’s just pause and talk about a couple of Black people.’”
Parlin said that Black heritage deserves greater recognition by the school beyond just one tokenized month.
“It’s an important reminder that we need to have an inclusive curriculum [that represents] everyone,” he said. “If having a separate month or a day of activities works to [encourage] people to take action, then great, but I see it as an intermediate. Ideally, every month is Black History Month.”