By Carolyn Solar |Staff Writer|
Black History Month is dedicated to recognizing and honoring the accomplishments that black people have made throughout history.
This is a time for many students to be proud of their heritage, look back at the past, and look to the future for all that there is to come.
At CSUSB, we see that the African-American population is an underrepresented portion of our student body. Of the 20,024 students enrolled in Fall 2015, 1,182 were African-American, according to the CSUSB website.
For some students, Black History Month is a “double-edged sword.” It seems to separate itself from regular history, but at the same time, it acknowledges the people striving for progression that are underrepresented throughout history.
“It seems to imply that our history is somehow separate from everyone else’s. But I understand the need. Black people suffer from a severe lack of representation in everything from prime time television to my overpriced history book,” said student Tommy Stiles.
“I think I’m most proud of my background when I hear stories from my grandparents who still remember when lynchings were a more regular occurrence,” said Stiles.
Stiles is proud of seeing how far society has come; although, he thinks there is still a lot of progress to be made.
“There’s a natural progression when it comes to social justice issues. People learn more. People become more aware of other people. With that comes growth, and with growth comes change,” said Stiles.
For others, this month allows for the opportunity to raise awareness to the community about concerning racial issues.
Students like Malaysia Parris believe that this holiday should be more than just a monthly celebration but, instead, year-round focus. She defines this holiday as a time to celebrate black heritage and serves as an opportunity to educate “POC (people of color) and non-POC” about issues that are not taught in school.
“In [institutions] of higher learning, one can only learn about African-American history as an elective. For this reason, this month gives me joy to teach,” said Malaysia Parris.
“This month gives the sort of ‘green light’ for African-Americans to embrace and celebrate themselves freely and un-apologetically, because in the normal day-to-day world, many of us can be a bit more reserved in this regard,” said Parris.
Parris, along with other students, like Shaquel McCoy, take this as an opportunity to showcase year-round opportunities.
“It is more than just a month, It is more than just February. It is people of color gathering together to raise awareness towards issues we face every single day,” said student Shaquel McCoy.
On campus, there are a variety of clubs, organizations, and fraternities that are aimed at creating this unity among African-American students.
Black Student Union (BSU), Student African American Brotherhood (SAAB), and Student African American Sisterhood (SAAS) are all organizations students can get involved in at CSUSB to make a difference in their community.
“As a black community at CSUSB, we do a lot of events. For one, we have the Pioneer Breakfast and another is the Black Leadership Symposium,” said McCoy.
These two events bring the community together to help the youth understand their history and show them that there are people similar to them that are doing great things for their community.
“We want students and alumni to know that we are also students and we are activists doing the best we can to change the perspective on people of color both on and off campus,” said McCoy.
Through other organizations, such as Fraternities, one student has gained a better appreciation for the position he is in today from learning about the struggles of his ancestors.
“When I joined my fraternity in 2012, Ioto Phi Theta Inc., I did my family research and found that I was related to a very pivotal person in history named Emmett Till. I found out that Emmett Till is a distant cousin of mine. If you know his story, he was a little black boy who whistled at a white woman and was savagely beaten, drowned, hung, and mutilated by a group of white men,” said student Montrel Lawrence.
Understanding that this was not something learned in a history book, but was a historical event with a personal connection, gave Lawrence the pride he has today.
Other predominantly black fraternities and sororities at CSUSB include Phi Beta Sigma, Delta Sigma Theta, and Sigma Gamma Rho.
For others, spending time with family is enough to make them proud of where they have come from.
“My family has a foundation in San Diego and every summer in June we have this big parade. We have a bunch of different dancers and performers and those days setting up and leading up to it make me proud of where I come from and thankful for my family,” said student Sierra Miller.
Whether it is family, community or your fraternity, it is always important to remember and celebrate the people who have paved the way for your success.
Happy Black History Month!