Representation Matters During Black History Month, and Every Month

People protesting at Black Lives Matter a protest. Photo from Pixabay.

People protesting at Black Lives Matter a protest. Photo from Pixabay.

Edna Wafula, Staff Writer

Black History Month is the yearly celebration of the accomplishments of African Americans and their role in U.S. history. Ever since 1976, every U.S. president has assigned the month of February as Black History Month. But besides the celebration, this month means so much more for students of color at State High. 

Reflecting on Black History Month this year, freshman Malia Abdullah applauds State High for acknowledging the month by saying a fun fact on the morning announcements and not just focusing on slavery. Abdullah believes that a lot of the recognition was student organized and wishes the school could have done more.

Devon Jackson is a freshman at State High. “The school should’ve had lessons in classes and required everybody to go to Lift Every Voice,” Jackson said, while sharing improvements she thinks the school could’ve made. 

 Quinnipiac University analyst Tim Malloy said that “removed from the classroom, two-thirds of Americans look back and say they were not taught enough about the struggles and the triumphs of African Americans.” Schools teaching Black history is crucially important, so that students can be fully educated. 

Jackson enunciated the value of improving education about African American history when discussing how everyone should get a chance to know where they came from. Because of slavery, it is difficult for most Black Americans to trace their ancestry; a struggle other Americans will never understand. 

“In a school that’s predominantly white, I think it’s good to let minorities feel heard because it can get kind of lonely when you don’t have as many people that are like you around you,” said Abdullah, speaking to raising awareness in the school setting.

Representation matters as it empowers minorities and allows them to feel like their opinions matter as well. The diversity representation creates is beneficial for many different situations and environments, and allows everyone to feel heard. 

Abdullah voiced her concerns on the overall lack of representation at State High, explaining how multiple minority groups are not recognized enough. She went on to say that Black clubs, engineers, and groups are not talked about regularly.

In terms of the support she needs from the school, Jackson mentioned that the school needs to hire more staff of color and notes that historically not much has changed. 

Having a diverse variety of staff plays a huge role in representation. It is extremely impactful for students of color to have teachers who look just like them. It creates an environment where students of color can feel comfortable. A diverse staff is very important so that the school community can be filled with many diverse ideas and perspectives. This is very effective especially in Social Studies departments, so that minority students can have teachers that share similar backgrounds and experiences to them when teaching about history. 

As students of color, both Abdullah and Jackson both think of the word “weird” when describing what it’s like to be a Black student in a predominantly white area.

“Gen Z humor is kinda weird because we all kind of make jokes out of everything. I remember seeing a lot of TikToks about Black History Month and all the white people being like ‘I support you’ and stuff like that. But other than the jokes we’re not really acknowledged in school about it unless somebody is joking, so that can feel kind of lonely,” Abdullah stated. 

Black History is more than just American History, it’s also Black peoples stories, pasts, and journeys to freedom. 

“For me, Black History Month is seeing where we were and seeing how far we’ve come, and the progress that still needs to be made,” Abdullah said. 

Knowing the significance of Black History, Jackson questions the lack of education on it. “Why do we only have one month? Why don’t I learn about my history? Why can’t I do that every month?”

The majority of Jackson’s questions remain unanswered. This year changes could’ve been made, but students of color are eagerly waiting for change outside of one singular month. Representation matters and that starts with action within our school. Students should no longer have to wait to be seen.