Is Black History Month still relevant?

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Is Black History Month still relevant?

Black History Month events Middletown:

Feb. 20 – Comedy Night featuring: Michael Jackson – Triple Moon Café 1100 Central Ave. Middletown 45044 7-9 p.m. Free.

Feb. 27 – “Brown Eye Reflections” A Performance of Elmon Prier’s works – Tried Stone Baptist Church. 621 Lafayette Ave. Middletown, 45044 6 p.m. Free.

Miami University Regionals are sponsoring a number of events for Black History Month.

Feb. 18, A Taste of Soul Food Luncheon, 11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m., Miami Middletown’s Campus Community Center. Enjoy entertainment by saxophonist Eddie Osborne and traditional soul food. This year’s menu includes fried chicken, fried catfish, collard greens, green beans, macaroni and cheese, candied sweet potatoes, potato salad, cole slaw, red beans and rice, pound cake, sweet potato pie, cornbread, dinner rolls and punch. The public is invited to attend and carryout is available. Tickets are $7 for adults, and $5 for Miami students and children under 12.

An informative display on African American participation in military conflicts around the world will be on display from Feb. 1 - Feb. 29 at Miami Hamilton’s Rentschler Library. Selected fiction and non-fiction titles will be included. Rentschler Library is free and open to the public.

A biographical display on African American historical figures will be on display from Jan. 26 - Feb. 29 at Miami Middletown’s Gardner-Harvey Library. Selected fiction and non-fiction titles on individuals and topics from the African American experience will be included. Gardner-Harvey Library is free and open to the public.

For more information on any of these events, call Miami University’s Regional Offices of Diversity & Multicultural Services at 513.785.3024 or email kinggm@miamioh.edu.

For many people, locally and nationally, Black History Month is a critically important observance that provides people of all colors an opportunity to learn about the history and contributions of African Americans in this country.

But for others, the notion of Black History Month is a throwback to a bygone era and not consistent with the so-called post-racial era that began with President Barack Obama’s election.

Two noted black celebrities — actor Morgan Freeman and actress Stacey Dash — have come out publicly saying that Black History Month should be done away with.

“Our accomplishments cannot be limited to 28 days,” Dash said recently on social media, clarifying remarks she made on Fox News about eliminating Black History Month and cable channels like BET geared toward black-only audiences.

“Do not listen to liberals who try to limit you, to put you into a box, to tell you that you must believe one way or another, that you cannot think for yourselves, and that the government can ‘give’ you a ‘special month,’” she said.

Freeman expressed similar thoughts nearly 11 years ago in an interview with 60 Minutes when he said, “You’re going to relegate my history to a month? I don’t want a black history month. Black history is American history.”

The Rev. Dr. Michael Joseph Brown, academic dean and interim president of Payne Theological Seminary in Wilberforce, Ohio, which is affiliated with the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME), feels that the reasons presented to eliminate Black History Month are incorrect.

“Honestly, I think this is absurd. Although we are becoming a more diverse nation, we cannot simply ‘cover over’ any particularities we may have,” Brown said. “Black History Month serves an important purpose in our national life, just like celebrations of our Latino and Asian heritages do.”

Black History Month was started by educator and historian Carter G. Woodson, who started the event as Negro History Week in 1926 during the second week in February to coincide with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.

Another event, National Hispanic Heritage Month, is observed each year from from September 15 to October 15. The cultural celebration was introduced by President Lyndon Johnson in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week. President Ronald Reagan expanded it into a month in 1988.

Brown believes that these types of cultural celebrations serve as reminders of how much of a melting pot the United States has become.

“The United States has been called the great melting pot, but it is more of a stew and not a consommé. Our individual cultural identities are just as important as what holds us together as a nation,” he said.

There is some question of whether Black History month still resonates with Millennials, many of whose lives have been largely free of the overt racism their grandparents might have endured.

Miami University Hamilton junior student Segilola Adeseha, 20, thinks the month and the rest of the year can be used to properly educate everyone about black history.

“I can comprehend what Stacy Dash is saying. However to say we do not need channels like BET or Black History Month, I do not agree with,” Adeseha said. “It is not entirely about segregation but history. White American history is not threatened. Black history is unceasingly fading in America.”

Adeseha said there is a contorted truth about the part Blacks played in America.

“Not just slaves, but Black discoverers, Black inventors and as years pass, it fades completely,” she said. “Nobody is knowledgeable about them. In addition, If Blacks did not get recognized by having channels like BET or BET awards, there would be no recognition at all. Yes, we are all Americans, however, I do not believe we are all treated like Americans.”

Ian MacKenzie-Thurley, executive director of the Fitton Center in Hamilton, said the month-long celebration is important, and his organization has future plans for it.

“Nothing was programmed as part of this current season. However, it’s something I have been working with the Booker T. Washington Center on with regard to programming both here and with our Outreach program for next year,” he said. “We are also exploring ways to engage with the Latino community here in greater Hamilton. It’s important to us, but I want ensure it’s done in and collaborative and qualitative way.”

Joni Copas and Corbin Moore, of the Hamilton City School District, said each building in the district celebrates Black History Month in its own unique way.

“Typically, ‘Great Moments in Black History’ is incorporated in the morning announcements, which is the case at Hamilton High and Riverview Elementary,” Moore explained. “Individual teachers incorporate African American biographies into their English Language Arts Lessons, and students study the Underground RR and the fight for Civil Rights in social studies classrooms at Grades 4,8, and 10. Additionally, we offer African American History as an elective at HHS, and we are adding African American History II next year.”

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