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Black Heritage Month: Black Resistance

Black Heritage Month

January 30, 2023

Annually recognized during the month of February since 1976, Black Heritage Month is a time to amplify and bring to the forefront issues experienced in the Black community and to educate the community about the contributions to history and society Black people and the Black community have contributed to America.

Black Resistance, the 2023 theme for Black Heritage Month, focuses on the impact of historical oppression and systemic injustice and the continued work that is needed to create a future that is more equitable and inclusive of everyone.

In a segment of Maya Angelou’s poem ‘And Still I Rise’, the poet writes:

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’ wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

Throughout history there have been a multitude of African Americans who have changed the world, many of whom are prevalent in textbooks and history that we all know. America is forever changed by the incredible commitment and work by folks such as Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, John Lewis, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and so many others. While these folks may be the persons who first come to mind as most influential in advocating for racial equality, social justice, and civil rights, there are many others who made significant impacts in the work being done and continues to be done today.

Daisy Bates, an activist and journalist, was instrumental in the organization of the Little Rock Nine at Central High School in Little Rock, AK. She and her husband owned The Arkansas Weekly, an African American newspaper dedicated to the Civil Rights Movement. Gordon Parks, photographer, referred to the camera as his ‘weapon of choice’ and used it as a tool to document and fight against poverty and racism. Ella Baker, activist and often referred to as the ‘mother of the civil rights movement’, was an organizer within the NAACP and helped to co-found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. As a strong-willed women, Baker not only worked to further the civil rights movement, she, at times, had to deal with sexism among men of religious backgrounds who felt women should be submissive.

There are many dedicated and driven persons continuing on the work for the next generation as well. Venice Armour, breaking stereotypes of male dominated fields to become the first Black female combat pilot in America. She credits her strength to the strong black women and men who built a legacy for future generations and wants to continue building on that legacy. Melanie Campbell, president and CEO of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, helped to create Black Youth Vote! that focuses on voter registration. Ayǫ Tometi, human rights advocate and co-founder of Black Lives Matter. James Rucker, co-founder of Color of Change, an online racial justice organization consisting of 7 million members.

The Marcus Garvey Cultural Center (MGCC),celebrates their 40th anniversary in 2023 and has planned a reception on Saturday, February 4 at the Campus Commons. Additional information on the reception and other programs and events planned throughout the month of February in celebration of Black Heritage Month is available. MGCC has created their programming around the theme of Black Renaissance. In a 2021 Time Magazine article, Ibram X. Kendi wrote, ‘We are living in the time of a new renaissance—what we are calling the Black Renaissance—the third great cultural revival of Black Americans, after the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s, after the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Black creators today were nurtured by these past cultural revivals—and all those brilliant creators who sustained Black Arts during the 1980s and 1990s. But if the Harlem Renaissance stirred Black people to see themselves, if the Black Arts Movement stirred Black people to love themselves, then the Black Renaissance is stirring Black people to be themselves. Totally. Unapologetically. Freely.’

Take Action:

For additional education and personal development related to diversity, equity and inclusion, the following resources are available: DEI Education and Resources, DEI & Antiracism Resources from the UNC Libraries, the Education Equity Toolkit from the Colorado Department of Higher Education, and the UNITE workshops for faculty, staff, and students.