There was a time in this very nation where black history was undocumented and unknown, and Carter G. Woodson became inspired to preserve the history of African-Americans and accumulate a collection of thousands of artifacts and publications. He noted that African-American contributions “were overlooked, ignored and even suppressed by the writers of history textbooks and the teachers who use them.”
Some have and still question the need for Black History Month celebrations. Thankfully, in many places, we have steered away from apologizing and being defensive about the need, for us as a people, to celebrate our history.
We firmly believe such history provides an opportunity for African-Americans to gain relevant and important knowledge about our past, help broaden our understanding of who we really are and the valuable contributions we’ve made to help shape and mold this nation.
It was one of the reasons we decided to take on the roles of president and vice president of the Black Student Association at Elgin Community College.
We understand the importance of not only celebrating our culture all year round, but also educating our peers on the history of blacks in America and around the world while encouraging and empowering each other to excel in every aspect of our lives. In looking at our history, we see struggle and strife but we also see a legacy of heritage, longevity and long-suffering amid our sorrow. We turned our wounds into wisdom and that should forever be celebrated and honored.
It also is important to pay homage to the courageous leaders before us – such as Martin Luther King Jr., Harriet Tubman, A. Phillip Randolph, Rosa Parks, Charles Hamilton Houston, Ida B. Wells and Carter G. Woodson, just to name a few – and continue to carry the torch they lit.
Each new year is an opportunity to grow and make our ancestors proud of our achievements. Each year we should all take part in celebrating the contributions of African-Americans to our country’s success – because it is our history. African-American history and its celebration throughout February is just as vibrant today as it was when Woodson created it 88 years ago in 1926.
In the words of Lonnie Bunch, director of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture: “It helps us to remember there is no more powerful force than a people steeped in their history. And there is no higher cause than honoring our struggle and ancestors by remembering.”
• Kendra Wilkinson is president of the Elgin Community College Black Student Association, and Brandon Smith is vice president of the association. The “ECC Extras” column runs the first Thursday of each month. Feedback can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.