At Grambling, we celebrate black history year-round The black love, the speakers, the fun and the education become part of you every day
Knowing and being surrounded by my black history is nothing new to me. My elementary school experiences were entirely related to black culture because I attended African-centered schools — NationHouse Watoto School, Kuumba Learning Center and Ujamaa Shule, all in Washington, D.C. — until I began public school in seventh grade.
Since I matriculated at Grambling State University, the way I view Black History Month has changed. We honor and discuss history all year-round, not just during the shortest month of the year.
This is a stark contrast to the way Black History Month played out at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Virginia, which I attended. Every February, and only in February, my teachers touched on the surface-level accomplishments of my people.
As a result, my father, who was a teacher at my high school and a black nationalist, was prompted to fill in the gaps. A lover of all things black culture, he set up an annual black history presentation for a mixed student population. He not only wanted to show our culture, he hoped to educate students on black heritage and black greatness.
He spoke on African-American pioneers and innovators and historically black colleges and universities, hosted panel discussions on topics such as police brutality and slain Florida teenager Trayvon Martin and what it means to be black, and showcased black sororities and fraternities with brief step presentations.
At Grambling, that approach is not necessary. I am surrounded by the culture daily. From class discussions on how we have to work twice as hard to be successful to weekly programs about how to better ourselves as black professionals to the convocation ceremonies held throughout the school year, discussing and remembering black history is a must.
This doesn’t mean we ignore Black History Month in February. In fact, everyone, from the administration to student-led organizations, does a little bit extra to honor our history. The school’s newspaper, The Gramblinite, dedicates special pages about Black History Month specifically to African-American leaders who have made an impact.
Additionally, the Favrot Student Union Board rented a local movie theater so students could watch the new movie Black Panther for free. Another campus organization, the United Afrikan American Men, set up a package deal with transportation and movie tickets to the nearest mall for students to see the film.
The Society of Distinguished Black Women coordinated an out-the-box Black History Month parade on Feb. 22 and hosted a black business expo on Feb. 23. Some organizations encouraged members to dress as their favorite person in history and to make signs representing that person in the parade. Some of the people represented were Emmett Till, Ruby Bridges, Serena Williams, the Freedom Riders, Rebecca Lee Crumpler and Florence Griffith Joyner. Together, they marched across campus.
Another Black History Month tradition at Grambling is having a Black History Month convocation speaker to give an uplifting message to students. This year’s guest speaker was White House correspondent April Ryan. The political analyst and Morgan State University graduate spoke Tuesday. Lastly, there was a Black History Month Poetry Slam, where students showcased their poems or those written by prominent African-Americans.
Black History Month at Grambling is fun. The best part is that the show of support for black history and culture — the motivational speakers, the black love, the programs — happens all year-round.