Black History Month allows remembrance of troubled times

JUSTICE IN THE U.S. (Stephanie Silverman)

Stephanie Silverman

Black History Month is a time for all Americans to reflect on the past and look forward to the future. The United States’ past is not the image of perfection we’d like to remember. African-Americans were forced to endure the horrors of slavery and other extreme forms of oppression. From this persecution came some of the greatest people of all time: those who saw this crime being committed and relentlessly sought change. In a time when many would go to extreme lengths to silence the voice of a black man, the messages of African-American heroes resonated loudly in the hearts of the downtrodden.

In 1865, the 13th Amendment abolished slavery in the U.S., stating that “neither slavery nor involuntary servitude… shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” This was a revolutionary turning point in American history, but African-Americans still had a long road of hardship and persecution ahead of them. It wasn’t until five years later, in 1870, that blacks were granted the right to vote.

The 1896 Supreme Court case, Plessy v. Ferguson, ruled that racial segregation was still constitutional. Finally, over half a century later in 1954, the Supreme Court held that racial segregation in schools was unconstitutional.

Perhaps the most recognizable figure in black history, Martin Luther King Jr., delivered one of the most influential speeches in our history in 1963. The speech was titled, “I Have a Dream.” King was a staunch advocate of non-violent civil disobedience.

In 1965, Malcolm X, a black nationalist whose methods differed greatly from King’s, was assassinated. The creed of Malcolm X and his devoted followers was “by any means necessary.” This was the doctrine of people who were desperate for change.

King was tragically assassinated next, in the same year that President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1968, legally prohibiting further forms of discrimination against blacks.

The first major racial controversy most current college students can remember is the Rodney King Riots. No one who was alive in the U.S. in 1992 will forget the violent videotaped beating of the black man Rodney King by four white police officers. Outraged citizens rioted in protest in south-central Los Angeles and across the nation.

As of Nov. 4, 2008, America has elected our first African-American President, Barack Obama. Many Americans never thought they would see the day when an entire nation overcame their history of prejudice and elected a man based purely on merit.

The election was clearly a landmark event, not only in black history, but in American history. However, Americans cannot jump to the conclusion that the days of racism and discrimination are entirely behind us. People must be pro-active in preserving equality for everyone, and not forget the many African-American heroes who suffered so their children and grandchildren could have a better life.

Here at Saddleback College on Feb. 26, students and faculty remembered the importance of black history by holding the event, “A Celebration of Black History: Legacy, Liberation, and New Beginnings.”

The event began with the Rev. Dr. Richard A. Rose, who delivered a moving speech, “The Invisible Visible Hand of History.” He spoke about the struggles African-Americans have overcome, and mentioned important figures in black history, such as Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr., Howard Thurman, and Barack Obama.

Saddleback students were able to show off their artistic abilities in the “I Have a Dream” poster contest. Students depicted Martin Luther King Jr. and his historical speech, as well as Abraham Lincoln and others. Some created the works of art with paint, pencils, pastels, or watercolors, while others used graphic art. Many students included phrases and quotes that they felt were messages of hope and change.

The black history event hosted at Saddleback was a diverse gathering of people who came together to recognize the progress we have made and advancement that is still to come. Walking into the Student Lounge, where the event was held, one could see an African-American student in a traditional dashiki, sitting across from a Middle-Eastern student listening just as intently to the lecture. Clearly, Black History Month is not only celebrated by African-Americans, but by all Americans who have learned the true meaning of the words, as said by King, “they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

Saddleback College celebrated Black History month in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. with posters created by students. A diversity of students showed the respect. (Stephanie Silverman)

DREAM MAKER (Stephanie Silverman)

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