Almost 100 years later, Black History Month is still celebrated nationwide, but students and staff have said that controversy still exists around the significance of the month. While some said they think the month is necessary for society to progress, others said that there may be better ways to combat racism.
English teacher Chynna Wendell said she thinks it’s important for people to honor this month, and there should be more credit given to Africans and African-Americans.
“I think it’s sad that we need a whole month to celebrate black history and I think we should be celebrating this everyday,” Wendell said. ”The month gives us a special opportunity to look at pioneers.”
Social Studies teacher Dean Wood also said he believes it’s important to celebrate this month despite any opposition surrounding it.
“I wish we celebrated this month more within schools. I feel like some people don’t want to celebrate this month because they think the problem is solved,” Wood said. “That’s just simply not true.
However, for certain students, the perspective on the necessity of the month differs a bit.
Senior Oseremen Esangbedo said he thinks the simple title of the month does not affect him on a substantial level.
“I do think this month is important to some extent because some people don’t get the chance to think about social issues like these everyday, but I already think about this everyday,” Esangbedo said. “I’m black, I’m aware of that, and I embody the culture regularly. This month doesn’t change that.”
Senior Mayita Muvavarirwa also said that while she supports the message of Black History Month, it has not brought about much societal change.
“I feel that awareness and representation is important, but this month has been celebrated for decades without any change being brought,” Muvavarirwa said.
Muvavariwa said that her identity as a black woman has affected her views on ways to take action.
“I think more about how race plays a factor in my life than a lot of people do,” Muvavariwa said. “I’m more concerned about how I fit into society, so I’ve realized that it’s not just about recognizing that Black History Month matters, but more about making steps to get involved in our community to make it more inclusive.”
Senior Sydney Haywood also said while she does not completely agree with the notion that Black History Month is effective in stopping racism, it’s still beneficial to learn about African-Americans from the past.
“If change is wanted there would have to be a time where African-American people would have to meet with state representatives to stop racism,” Haywood said.
Haywood also said that her identity has shaped her perspective on what subtleties should be focused on.
“I think me being a black woman allows me to appreciate the people that have come before me,” Haywood said. “I’m still able to learn about how African-Americans that came before me helped pave the way for me to have a right to all the things they didn’t have to in the past.”
Wood said he believes the environment in Northern Virginia changed his opinion on racism, and the importance of the month.
“This is the most diverse place I’ve worked at, but I’ve found that we sometimes don’t tend to think of each other’s cultures in deep or meaningful ways,” Wood said. “I think this gives us a larger perspective to work with.”
Both staff members and students share different perspectives on the correct way to combat racism, and how to celebrate the month properly.
English teacher James Macindoe said he thinks a reform in education is needed to properly teach the youth about social issues.
“I don’t think that history classes teach these issues properly,” Macindoe said. “We gloss over big events like the Civil Rights movement and slavery in textbooks, and we need to move past just mentioning these events.”
Wood said he also thinks that protesting at movements can help raise awareness for issues.
“Even if you think you can’t win, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t fight,” Wood said.
Others have said that taking such actions are important only to some extent.
“I think protesting is important, but only to some extent,” Macindoe said. “People should pay attention to who they vote for, they should be having conversations about these issues to each other, and they should be doing more in addition to help combat racism,” Macindoe said.