Each year a mere 28 days are designated to learn about the contributions Black and African American people have made in our history and to celebrate the contributions they make every day despite the racial barriers that are inherent in our society and the daily recognition of historical leaders in the white community.
Black History Month, which started out as a week-long celebration in the early 20th century, is celebrated across the country and CSU has several events planned to further the month’s goal of honoring Black history.
Students Jhasmyne Cooper-Moore and Arisson Stanfield from the Black/African American Cultural Center discuss what Black History Month means to them and provide suggestions for how others can respectfully join in on the events of the month.
Stanfield said she has mixed feelings about Black History Month.
“In one sense it can be very enriching and in another sense it can feel like kind of a token thing,” Stanfield said. “It can feel like it’s not nearly enough because it takes an entire history that is inextricable from American history in general and actually predates American history but regulates it to just one month.”
Cooper-Moore said she appreciates Black History Month but acknowledges that it has drawbacks.
“I feel like Black History Month kind of limits people who identify as being Black or of Black descent to celebrate their blackness in this one month, and with that it’s only 28 days,” Cooper-Moore said.
Stanfield said Black History Month is an attempt to rectify missing chapters of a history that we are all a part of. With the exception of the topics such as slavery, Jim Crow Laws and Martin Luther King Jr., Black history is almost completely absent from history classes, according to Stanfield.
“Ideally you don’t need a Black History Month if you just acknowledge blacks throughout history,” Stanfield said.
The B/AACC office is holding over 20 events this month with the overarching theme “Embrace My Blackness.” The events including discussions, film showings, performances and guest speakers.
“I am pretty excited for all of the month’s events,” Cooper-Moore said. “They target the different aspects of what it means to be Black.”
One event Cooper-Moore is particularly excited about is the Hair Show: Dripping Melanin which will be held Feb. 12 in the Lory Student Center Theater at 4 p.m.
The event is hosted by the campus organization United Women of Color, which Cooper-Moore serves as president for.
“I’m excited for this because it gives a platform for local stylists to showcase their talent,” Cooper-Moore said. “It showcases Black hair and what that means and, for a lot of Black women, their hair is sacred.”
The concept of hair being sacred is something Cooper-Moore can relate to.
“It’s something I’m embracing because I’m told that this is not beautiful,” Cooper-Moore said. “(My hair) is something that is special to me.”
This sacredness is often disturbed when people routinely ask to touch her hair, she said.
“For me for you to ask to touch my hair is you labeling me as something that is not the same as you or something that’s inhuman,” Cooper-More said.
In terms of participating in the month’s events for those who do not identify as part of the Black and African-American community Cooper-Moore and Stanfield encourage individuals to be aware of how they are taking up space and come willing to listen and learn.
“I think for non-people of color, for white people and for anyone who doesn’t feel particularly close to Black History Month, because not all Black people feel like it’s needed or a good thing, just participate. Just learn. Just be there to listen,” Stanfield said.
Cooper-Moore said everyone is welcome to participate in the events.
“One thing I think people definitely get confused is the fact that if you don’t identify as being Black or of African descent is that you can’t participate in Black History Month,” Cooper-Moore said. “The way you participate is just in a different capacity. So I think if you don’t identify as being black or African American the best way you can participate is to just be there and listen because a lot of the times white people do own a lot of the spaces that are on this campus.”
The Black/African American Cultural Center is open to all students and is located at the Lory Student Center in room 335. For more information about the center and the Black History Month events visit baacc.colostate.edu.