Students reflect on Black heroes for Black History Month

Emily Pisqui

It seems bleak to think of “erasure” as a dominating force in the United States, perhaps even more so than the purported values of freedom, liberty and justice, but it happens. That’s why Black History Month’s goal of reclaiming history, reflecting and acknowledging the achievements and lasting impacts of African American figures throughout history is so crucial. 

To bolster this, we at The Rocky Mountain Collegian wanted to go straight to the student body and let the people on campus tell their own story. 

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To kick off Black History Month, students at Colorado State University were asked about which Black icons throughout history impacted their growth, knowledge and experiences the most. 

“I always really looked up to Harriet Tubman,” said Guillermina Morales, a political science major. “I think what she did is amazing. She put her life at risk for a lot of people. It’s really important to recognize minorities — especially Black people — and there (are) a lot of people who have done a lot of great things, and sometimes they aren’t recognized as much, and I feel like they do need a period where they are recognized because it doesn’t happen enough.”

Art major Lindsay Gomez said her favorite Black icon is American singer, songwriter and producer Janelle Monáe. A powerful force in modern pop and R&B music, Monáe is as important as a role model to young women as they are to the evolution of the music industry. Gomez said Monaé is a good role model due to their authenticity and dedication to their artistry. 

“(They are) always unapologetically (themselves), and (they do) a lot to support Black women and empower Black women, which is really important,” Gomez said. “Anytime a Black woman is empowered and is herself and finds a way to share that with others through music and art, that is really empowering to see.”

Maggie Hendrickson, the assistant director of the Pride Resource Center, also mentioned Janelle Monáe. As a queer Black activist who inspires others with their art, Monáe does a lot for spreading awareness of the importance of intersectionality in activism

February is filled with many activities to celebrate Black History Month, and people have different feelings about the month being celebrated. Hendrickson said Black History Month is important but hasn’t been explicitly highlighted the way it should be.

“A lot of history generally is very whitewashed and told from a very specific patriarchal way, and to give a direct spotlight to Black/African American folks is really important in this country in particular, and it shouldn’t only be in that month, so there is this balance of how do you give spotlight and uplift all year long,” Hendrickson said.

Biology major and member of the Black/African American Cultural Center Nyerrie Lewis said Black History Month is a time to reflect. 

“Black History Month for me is a time for not necessarily myself, but a good reminder for everyone else around me to take time to really reflect on Black contributions and the way Black people live in America,” Lewis said.

Lewis also emphasized the role that CSU should play when it comes to dealing with incidents of racial bias on campus. 

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 “I think CSU needs to incorporate more education around Black culture instead of just saying ‘Here is this information; we need to have more discussions,’” Lewis said. “It’s very easy for people to go to classrooms and sit there and stare at a board and walk away, taking nothing away from it. That’s why we have (the) situations that we do on this campus.”

Another member of the BAACC, psychology major Andrew Brown, said part of the work that needs to be done is emphasizing why this month is so important to everyone in the community. 

“(To me, BHM is about) acknowledging Black people and things we have achieved,” Brown said. “I see it as a piece of acknowledgment for us to learn about.” 

Brown said he looks up to people who actually step up to change things. Brown said Jack Johnson, the first African American world heavyweight boxing champion, was his personal inspiration. 

“Jack Johnson … was just unapologetically Black,” Brown said. “His videos were inspiring to watch.” 

As February begins, BAACC will be having many different activities to celebrate Black History Month. To find more information about this month’s events, visit the BAACC website.

Emily Pisqui can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com or via Twitter @emilypisq15.