Written by Shamira James
Though it only lasts for one day, people associate the entire month of February with Valentine’s Day. While I love walking into Walmart and getting warm inside at the thought of someone buying me a $30 stuffed animal taller than me or candy at 75 percent off the day after the holiday, it hurts me a little that the importance of this month, Black History Month, is often overlooked.
Coming from Baltimore, Maryland, where African Americans make up over half of the population, Black History Month was always celebrated in school. In elementary school, we did those cute assignments with pictures of the great African Americans surrounding a text box and the question asking “What is your dream for the world?” In high school we learned about all the things history tends to push to the side, like the story of Rosa Parks, who refused to give up her seat on a bus – and this was even after she paid to ride it.
I knew coming to college would be different. Professors have their plans for the semester, and they try not to deviate from them. I couldn’t expect them to stop their plans for the entire month to celebrate Black History Month the way that we did in high school. I just expected to see it other places, but I never really did until my sophomore year. The Commons served a Black History Month themed dinner and while it was delicious (literally the best thing I’ve ever had), I couldn’t help but cringe at the underlying racism in the entire thing. I went from not seeing the support that often to seeing it done in a slightly offensive way.
This year is better. I see a banner over the Roanoke College Bank Building celebrating the month, as well as more African Americans and minority students enrolled at the college. All of this warms my heart. While I would love it if every day I walked into class we all just took 10 minutes to talk about something amazing an African American did back in the day to advance us, now I know it’s not possible, but I feel like I can do my part.
As an African American, this month lets me celebrate my culture with people similar and different and educate people in a space where we are not forgotten, just slightly overshadowed by Hallmark cards and heart shaped chocolates.