February offers chance to acknowledge black history

Hibah Hammad

Although we tend to associate the month of February with boxes of chocolates and Valentine’s Day, it is important to acknowledge another significant February tradition: Black History Month.

Ever since the United States was founded in 1776, it has had a long tradition of not loving its minorities as it loves its white, predominantly-male citizens. Even today, black Americans in the U.S. do not experience the same amount of privilege and rights as white Americans. That is why this month is dedicated to giving love, appreciation, and attention to one of the most mistreated minorities in America.

Although racism isn’t as obvious as it was during the days of slavery and Jim Crow laws, it is widely acknowledged as a prevalent problem in the U.S. today. Rather than disappearing, racism has evolved. The mass incarceration of black people in America is often equated to modern-day slavery, and the police brutality, lower wages, microaggressions and more are simply the aftermath of America’s darkest times; racism is still ingrained in our society and culture.

In an attempt to combat this racism, there have been, and still are, a number of powerful and influential black women and men who fight for equality with peaceful protests, shows of black excellence, and more.

One underrated, yet important, black leader in U.S. history is Ella Baker, a civil rights activist who lived from 1903-1986. Ella Baker saw the importance in young activism and helped form the SNCC or Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, a civil rights organization focused on voting rights for black Americans and protesting through freedom rides. Not only was she an influential civil rights activist, but she is an inspiration and a true example of a strong black woman.

While forming organizations and marching on the streets is one way to speak out, Frederick Douglass showcased the other. A former slave, Douglass published his autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass in 1845. His work brought to the world the absolute horrors of slavery and challenged the ideas of the South. His work helped inspire presidents to begin considering policies that view black Americans as people. After befriending Lincoln and trying to change the mindsets of Andrew Jackson, Douglass died in 1895 as an influential abolition activist.

Civil rights protesting isn’t the only way to protest. Being strong and successful, breaking the stereotypes, and paving the way for equality in different forms, such as music and art, is just as influential. The legendary Jimi Hendrix showcased black excellence by being, as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame explains, “One of the most gifted instrumentalists of all time.” He influenced music by breaking barriers of genres and playing legendary solos that were more than just notes of a guitar. As the entertainment industry still neglects diversity today, Jimi Hendrix helped give a name black people everywhere.

So, this year when you’re thinking about candy hearts and cute stuffed animals, don’t forget to acknowledge the importance of Black History Month.