Monday February 27, 2017

Real Topics At UD

When I was in high school, I thought that college classes would be pretty one-dimensional, dense, and not all that exciting. 

What I've learned while I was here was that the college experience is all about the encounters you have outside of the classroom, and so that's been a big part of my time here as a sophomore.

I may have mentioned these before, but if not, I'd like to share my experience at this month's Real Topic in OMA. Although this was a path-eligible event, I'm always in OMA anyway, so this one was basically a "freebie". 

Real Topics was started by my friend Veronica Halfacre and it is a monthly gathering open to anyone in the UD community to discuss a certain topic/real-world issue or current event happening at that time. Before I participated in the Food Deserts discussion, where I first learned about the issue that affects so many people in Dayton on a regular basis. The other day I ha the opportunity to participate in a talked titled "Black History Month...For Who?" We specifically discussed the issue of underrepresented non-American black figures who made a significant impact on black history. For example, Toussaint L'Ouvertrue was the leader of the Haitian Revolution against France--he actually got black troops together and trained them to fight for Haiti's freedom. When they won he went down in (Haitian) history as one of the most important leaders of all time, yet most Americans have never heard about him. 

The issue here is that Black History is already an underrepresented facet of the American educational curriculum. If you think about it, it's usually only the history classes that leave out literally any aspect of race in their lesson plans that are the kind of history that is "required" for graduation at most educational institutions, especially high school and middle school. Black history is always an elective or something optional to add to your course load, as well as Latin American history and Asian history, etc. This tackles the first reason of why we need black history month in the first place: because we don't do a great job of recognizing it year-round (even though I celebrate Black History 24/7).

This Real Topics discussion was different and new to me, however, because it brought to the forefront the issue of not recognizing non-American Black figures--there's more bias within the bias, in a way. We're not talking about just black musicians or sports figures that may be international, but mostly civil rights leaders that created change in that way or that made history in their country somehow. For the most part, the only person that came to mind the majority of the individuals in the room was the late Nelson Mandela, a man whose lifetime achievements and impact on the Africa, and essentially the world, could not be summed up in a few sentences. The point here is that we could take more time to learn about important black figures that had impacts on places other than America. The history of slavery tells us that the African Diaspora is a phenomenon that has displaced millions of black people all over the world. That being said, we probably haven't even recorded the triumph and the struggle of African people in the world if it wasn't in a major country or on a major continent. 

Black History Month is important to me because it reminds me of my purpose in this country in times when I feel like our purpose is erased. For centuries and to this present day, Black History has been a story of my people making something of ourselves out of absolutely nothing, big or small, we have ties to American history since it started. We helped to build this country--literally--we were the force behind the Industrial Revolution and making America the economic power that it is today. We invented a plethora of things that we often times weren't given credit for, like vaccines, the gas mask, and the traffic light. We transcend and speak our story through art and culture every day and Black History Month gives us the fuel to keep going. It reminds us of our ancestors and their fight throughout time, and it gives us value for the events that happen in the present. 

Any kind of history is important, no matter what culture you come from. Studying history is even more important because it's what forms our society and ultimately the people in it. I'm glad that my eyes were opened a little more about this important topic of Black History, and I hope that we could make better strides to acknowledge a heritage that we don't already serve enough justice to. This was a great step, however, as a diverse group of students was able to show up and engage in the conversation. Path-point eligible or not, these are the conversations that continue to bring us together as a community. 

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