Honoring Black History/Liberation Month, Part 1

Every day this month, in addition to other activities, faculty and staff in the College Prep community are sharing stories and biographies of Black Excellence and Black Joy. Read on for excerpts from our community bulletin board, Campus News.

Carter G. Woodson - The Father of Black History
As many of you know, February is Black History Month. However, you may not know that it was established in 1926 as Black History Week by historian Carter G. Woodson and The Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (now the Association for the Study of African American Life and History). Black History Week was first observed and promoted as Black History Month by student members of the Black United Students at Kent State University in 1970. The month was established to recognize the contributions of black persons to history and society. Black History Month; and others like it, are needed because the contributions of persons of color, women, queer folk and other marginalized groups are often overlooked, omitted or down-played in academia and education. Dr. Woodson summarized the dangers of this practice when he observed  that "those who have no record of what their forebears have accomplished lose the inspiration which comes from the teaching of biography and history."

President Gerald Ford and Congress officially recognized Black History Month in 1976 as a national observance and other countries such as The United Kingdom and Canada also observe Black History Month. In the United States Black History Month has a theme and the theme for 2021 is "The Black Family: Representation, Identity,& Diversity." These observances are opportunities to inspire and empower us to seek out and learn about the accomplishments and contributions of black people and others who are often omitted in academia and education on a regular basis; not just during a specific period of time.
(Contributor: Office of Equity and Inclusion Staff Member)
 
BHM Community Events in the Bay
Happy Black Liberation Month! One of my favorite things about black culture is its emphasis on community. Growing up, I didn't always go to schools that did a great job of representing black experiences or celebrating black culture beyond "heroes and holidays." As a result, learning about my people's history and culture in the larger community was essential. I remember going to local library events or museum exhibitions to supplement my classroom education. As a proponent of community based learning at CPS, I invite you to honor black history with and learn alongside our larger Oakland and East Bay community. I've compiled a calendar of BHM events taking place in the bay area to get you started. Please check them out and consider attending! Some are taking place in-person but many will be happening online due to COVID safety precautions. 

PS. Here are some things that have taken place on this day in black history:
  • Feb. 1, 1865 - The 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which abolished slavery, was adopted by the 38th Congress..
  • Feb. 1, 1902 - Langston Hughes, a famous poet, was born this day in Joplin, Mo.
  • Feb. 1, 1926 - What is now known as Black History Month was first celebrated on this date as Negro History Week by Carter G. Woodson. It became a month-long celebration in 1976.
(Contributor: Office of Experiential and Community Based Learning Staff Member)

Sylvester James Gates Jr. - American Theoretical Physicist
Sylvester James Gates Jr. is an American theoretical physicist who is most famous for his work on supersymmetry and its relationships to many different areas of physics. From string theory, to mirror symmetry, to supergravity, and many principles in between, Prof. Gates’ discoveries are abundant. Throughout his illustrious career, Prof. Gates has been the recipient of many awards and fellowships, notably he served on President Barack Obama’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. Additionally, Prof. Gates has been featured on many television shows and documentaries. When you have some time, check out the life and career of Sylvester James Gates Jr., and let’s talk about his cool ideas and work! To get the conversation started, here is a link to Prof. Gates discussing when he realized the power of mathematics.
(Contributor: Math Faculty Member)
 
Celebrating Black Authors: Black Joy
It is frustratingly hard to find good books that are simply about Black joy, that celebrate love and success and friendship in the Black community without tragedy, without struggle, without having to endlessly fight against racism and oppression. There are endless books about white people joyfully making their way to self-love and acceptance with little struggle. But, it is frustratingly hard to find these books about the Black community. Black authors aren't incentivized to write about Black joy because the publishing industry thinks no one wants to read books about that. The 2015 report, Writing the Future, concluded that the “’best chance of publication’ for a Black, Asian or minority ethnic writer was to write literary fiction conforming to a stereotypical view of their communities, addressing topics such as ‘racism, colonialism or post-colonialism’.” There's more on this here, if you're interested.
 
Yes, there are so many great books about the stark realities of racism and being Black in the world. Make sure you read those books, they are incredibly important. But also, Black stories aren't only pain and oppression and trauma—Black stories are also about happiness, self-love, success, love, friendship, and so many other things. Representation is important. It's important to see people in books that you identify with feeling joy, having deep and meaningful friendships, being successful in a career/family/home, going on adventures, falling in love, living happily ever after. All of this is to say, read and support Black authors. And not just for show in February. Celebrate Black authors all year long, buy their books, show publishers that Black stories are important in ALL THEIR VARIED AND MULTIFACETED FORMS.
 
Here is my first list celebrating Black authors with some of my favorite reads that feature Black joy, love, friendship, self-acceptance, and triumph. All of them are available in our ebook collection.
(Contributor: Library Staff Member)

Shirley Chisholm —Unbought and Unbossed
Kamala Harris wore purple when she was sworn in as Vice President of the United States. Many sources have attributed this color choice to Vice President Harris's desire to pay tribute to Shirley Chisholm, the United States' first Black woman Member of Congress as well as the first Black and first female identifying candidate for a major party's presidential nomination. Having grown up in Oakland and Berkeley at the same time as Vice President Harris, I remember the excitement my parents and other community members felt about Representative Chisholm's presidential campaign. Chisholm's candidacy was not supported by the Congressional Black Caucus, but our local Member of Congress, Ron Dellums, was the sole member of the Caucus to go on record endorsing her campaign. Though Shirley Chisolm represented New York, she had a special relationship with the East Bay and its political leaders.

I have collected a range of really cool material on Representative Chisholm's groundbreaking career and presidential campaign, including contemporaneous speeches, news programs, and interviews. I hope that they bring you joy and inspiration.

Links:

The Irrepressible Shirley Chisholm (NBC News Special, 1969)
Unbought and Unbossed (documentary, 2004) 
(Contributor: Forensics Faculty Member)
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