With Black History Month underway, Addison Trail is holding a number of events to celebrate the monumental role African Americans have played in American history.
Activities this year include t-shirt sales, several virtual events put together by Willowbrook’s Black Organization of Student Success (BOSS), which will discuss topics such as business, investing, generational wealth, and representation, and most importantly, increased acknowledgment of African American contributions to each field and discipline in students’ classes each day. The theme of the month is “Lift Every Voice.”
Also new this year, Addison Trail and Willowbrook are partnering up to make the celebration better than ever before. Game and movie nights are being hosted to bring people together from both schools.
Dr. Portia Ransom, the sponsor of Addison Trail’s Black Student Union (BSU), reflected on the importance of the partnership and unity.
“Black History Month means community-building to me. It’s an opportunity for people to lower their defenses, open their minds to new ideas, and consider other people’s experiences and perspectives,” Dr. Ransom said.
BSU co-president Quiana Birmingham was also enthusiastic about coming together with Willowbrook to teach others about Black history. She mentioned how important she feels it is that students and teachers alike take this opportunity to learn more.
“It is so important for AT to learn about black history because black history is everyone’s history. It affects all of us in so many different ways, ways that most of us don’t even understand,” Birmingham said.
“Black History is American History” is a theme that BSU finds extremely important. They are also encouraging progressive thinking and a unification through knowledge.
While knowledge and education are both extremely significant and play key roles in Black History month, for many of AT’s students and staff, the meaning is even deeper.
Birmingham explained the deeper meaning that Black History month holds to her.
“For me, black history month is a celebration of black people and what we have accomplished. I feel that a lot of people think about black history month and associate it with us being freed from slavery but in reality it’s a celebration of who we are and everything we have gone through,” she said.
There is certainly a lot that has been accomplished. Many African American leaders have guided the way to a better country for so many of us all.
Dr. Ransom talked about one of her favorite black historical figures, Zora Neale Hurston, and the contribution and impact she had on the world around her.
“Zora Neale Hurston is definitely one of my favorites,” said Dr. Ransom. “The subject of my dissertation for my Ph.D. was the Harlem Renaissance, and Hurston was a key figure in this movement. As a folklorist, anthropologist, and storyteller, is one of earliest feminists of our time. She created female characters who were strong, proud, independent, intelligent, and brave. Hurston once said, ‘I have the nerve to walk my own way, however hard, in my search for reality, rather than climb upon the rattling wagon of wishful illusions.’ And, she gave those who came after her permission to do that same.”
Birmingham had a different message about who her favorite historical figure is.
“I do not have just one historical figure that is my favorite. I believe that every black person on this earth is a historical figure. It is not easy being a black person in today’s society, no matter how light or dark. There are so many people who have made history that we don’t even know or hear about,” Birmingham said.
Ultimately, Ransom and Birmingham both stressed that the history that is made every day by African Americans deserves to be recognized not only this February, but also all year round. Growing as a person and coming from a palace of respect is the best way.
“Have open, candid, and authentic conversations with Black people and refrain from avoiding opportunities to address race and racism. These are opportunities to stretch yourself and grow,” said Ransom.
In a country of division and trails, perhaps the best way to unify and understand one another is to focus on love.
“The best way to celebrate Black history year-round is to simply show respect towards everyone. You don’t have to know everything about black history or every time we have had victory. Just understand where we come from and respect us,” said Birmingham. “All there is to do is to love each other.”