Black History Month at American University: An obituary

10 years ago by in Uncategorized Tagged:


Photo by Soko Hirayama

Brett Wilson is a senior at American University majoring in History and Justice

By Brett Wilson

It certainly goes without saying that one of the most important months of the year is Black History Month. Black History Month, as many know, had its meager beginnings as just a week to celebrate the achievements of African-Americans that made their mark on the United States and the world and tie that into a week of appreciating what opportunities that has made for us to this very day.

Unfortunately it is now the year 2007 and it does not seem as if things have progressed quite in a way that any of us could have imagined. This same sort of view can be shifted and applied to the microcosm of society that is American University.

I have been at AU for almost four years now and I have noticed a steady decline of events of substance at AU when it comes to Black History Month. I feel as though during my first few years, there were more events and students were truly encouraged to attend them. But I have seen a major shift happen in the last year. It seems as though something is still missing.

It hurts my heart, not only as a member of the minority, but also as a proud student of this university, to hear that in the years before I attended AU, the black student population was one of many to plead its case, year after year, to get more support and appreciation. Strengthening the Black Student Alliance, establishing a campus group called “Concerned Black Men” for the exact purpose of its title, are just a couple of efforts that came about and forced recognition in the eyes of many.

My earlier years in AU marked some of the strongest representation for Black History Month and events. It felt almost as if you could not turn anywhere without seeing a program of some significance being referenced in the student paper or on any of the various campus sanctioned Web portals. It was impossible to escape Black History Month at AU.

I have noticed over the years that many people like to say (especially the McDonald’s corporation) that they revel in the “black” experience and Black History 365 days a year. I even give kudos to Tom Joyner, the nationally syndicated black radio personality out of the Midwest bearing the moniker “the hardest working man in radio,” who through a sponsorship with McDonald’s, broadcasts a unique Black History fact every day of the year.

Despite all of this change, I still sit back and ask: if all of this occurs on a regular basis, then why does it seem that the representation of Black History Month at AU is fading into oblivion?

Don’t get me wrong, I love this school just as much as the next student. When you refer to AU throughout D.C., it is held in high-regard as a culturally diverse and politically conscious campus with an active student body. Believe me, any issue there is that needs to be fought, you can find someone supporting it here. That said, there seems to be a lackluster attitude toward Black History Month. There are students attempting to highlight opportunities for their peers to come out and bask in the glory that is Black History Month, but sadly the efforts are made by just a few groups and by the same pool of people.

I do not wish to point the finger at any one person to blame for the death of Black History Month. Who would I be pointing at?

It may be the case that people get complacent until there is something to ignite the passion within to defend what they truly stand for. I can say that I was one of many that took action on Jan. 19 in response to an inflammatory blurb that was posted on a student-run Web forum. The comments that were made were anonymous and it alluded to the fact that there were many back-to-back events which might appeal to African-Americans and that it was not the normal atmosphere at this university.

The decrease of activities for Black History Month at AU is a sad topic, but I also see that it can still be salvaged; it will just take the care and work of some individuals who truly want to see change, and that only can come from deep within.

SIDEBAR:

Editor’s Note:
Brett Wilson made reference to a comment posted on an AU Web site forum, the Daily Jolt, on Jan. 19, 2007, which has since been taken down. The Observer Staff decided to reprint this posting, which may offend some readers, because we thought it would better illustrate the themes Wilson discusses in his column.

The Daily Jolt Posting:
A Very Black Week
AU Community Experiences Many Black Activities This Week

First it was Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and the week chock full of events and celebrations. Then our #1 politically active campus was set ablaze by Senator Barack Obama announcing his candidacy for president on Tuesday. And now, Blackalicious, an alternative hip-hop group from California is all set to perform at 6PM on Friday (Jan. 19th) in the Tavern. That’s a lot of blackness in one week for even our wildly diverse campus community. For those of you who got worried, just enjoy all the events this week. We’re pretty sure things will be back to normal next week.

The American University School of Communication Graduate Program in Journalism works to prepare students for the realities of today's news and information space and the challenges of tomorrow. Find out more by visiting us online at soc.american.edu

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