Frederick Douglass Institute hosts panel discussion

Relevancy of Black History Month addressed

Black History Month

Black History Month logo – Photo courtesy of University Relations

By Trevor Arnold
Circulation Manager

The Frederick Douglass Institute at KU closed February with a panel discussion on Feb. 20 in the Academic Forum titled “Black History Month: Is it Still Relevant?”

The panel discussion, moderated by Maria Sanelli, professor of history, discussed whether Black History Month is still necessary to discuss in American culture and education systems.

The answer given from each panel member, two KU students and two KU professors, was an emphatic “yes.”

Chanelle Williams, a KU graduate student, began discussion, stressing that Black History Month is not about emphasizing differences from others, but rather promoting equality.

“We don’t put the world ‘Black’ in front of ‘history’ to set us apart from others,” said Williams. “We do it because there is a lack of history compared to others. Aren’t we Americans, too?”

Deborah Johnson, professor of elementary education, reiterated Williams’ sentiment, noting that Black History Month is meant to be a peaceful celebration of accomplishments.

“The future is in information,” said Johnson. “It’s in sharing. That’s Black History Month.”

Maya Wilson, a psychology major, agreed with Johnson’s ideas. She explained that Black History Month is a time to highlight the contributions of the Black community to American society as a whole.

“Black History Month is really about saying ‘Look, we are relevant in this country.’ We did more than just pick tobacco or cotton,” she said.

While this month is meant to highlight these positive contributions, Wilson notes that negative psychological effects stemming from slavery still adversely affect the Black population, sending wrong messages to its youth.

“We were stripped of our identity and told we were animals,” said Wilson. “Without Black History Month, we cannot break those chains.”

She explains that addressing the mental enslavement of Black Americans is critical to instilling the idea that Black children can achieve any goal made to continue making positive contributions to America.

The Frederick Douglass Institute at KU will host another panel discussion on April 6 regarding hate speech policies at State System schools.

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