Black History Month Talk Blog

This month, we asked members of WSUM to reflect upon Black History month, what it means to them, how they celebrate, and what Black trailblazers they admire. Read below to see how WSUM reflects on this month.

In solidarity, Karla Ponce, WSUM Talk Director

Biggie Smalls, TLC, Kool-aid, and Collard Greens

“I was born by the river, in a little tent…” are the lyrics and melody of my childhood. These words from Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come” were nothing, but background noise and an alert that someone was calling my grandma’s phone. I had never learned the title of the song, who it was by, or any lyrics beyond the few words sung before she picked up and said “Hello?”. It wouldn’t be until this year, fittingly during Black History Month, that I would find out this information. It feels kind of sad writing that about myself—that I didn’t know. It also feels kind of sad that my grandma has had that ringtone for decades, a song released when she was 13 years old. A song released at the height of the Civil Rights Movement when Black people’s hope, fear, and resilience was strong. I guess these things make this song nostalgic too. A reminder of that hope, fear, and resilience. Also a reminder of how far we have come, how far she has come. It derives a mix of joy, nostalgia, and sorrow.

I think this reflects what Black History Month means to me and how it makes me feel. Black History Month is sorrowful. It is consistent reminders of Black struggle. It is misquoting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the name of activism. It is pictures of my great grandmother who has passed away. It is a song of the Blues and wishing for a brighter day. It is witnessing the anti-blackness still in our world. It is making the most of the shortest month of the year. It is remembering countless Black lives stolen. It is the horrifying prison system and mass incarceration. It is the absent Black father stereotype. It is a reminder of the way that this country has failed Black people time and time again.

However, Black History Month is also full of joy. It is a celebration of Blackness. It is a time to acknowledge the sacredness of family and our community. It is my mother dancing her ass off to Biggie Smalls, TLC, and Prince. It is my sister and I creating a dance to “Proud Mary” by Tina Turner and “Rapper’s Delight” by The Sugarhill Gang at 10 and 12 years old. It is feeling welcome in a space where you see others with skin like your own. It is memories of the “Cookout” and doing the Electric Slide. It is “red flavored” Kool-aid. It is reminiscing over stories through photos of my childhood. It is laughing about being “tender-headed” and my mother doing braids too tight. It is the joy of the beads on my braids clacking together when I whipped my hair around. It is going to church at the butt crack of dawn, twelve too many songs from the choir, and a meal afterwards. It is fried chicken, collard greens, and mashed potatoes. It is my mom telling me to go outside because my grandma was making chitlins and it smelled terrible. It is Black solidarity and beauty found yesterday, today, and forever.

I have never really thought about how much little things from my past still bring me joy. My sister and I will remember those dances forever. I will always smile when I hear a little Black girl smiling at her new hair beads. My grandma will always have that song as her ringtone; if she ever changes it, I’ll force her to change it back. My mother will always use my grandma’s banana bread recipe—I can tell when she uses someone else’s. We each have our own memories and meanings for Black History Month and what it means to be who we are. I wish I could learn every meaning and every memory and maybe someday I will, but for now I have my joy, my sorrow, my family, and my roots. Happy Black History Month, from my beautiful Black family to yours.

Citation:

Cooke, S. (1964). A Change Is Gonna Come. On Ain’t That Good News [Album]. RCA Records.

Written by Jillian Turner

What does Black History Month mean to you?

Black History month means education, equality, and compassion to me. It is crucial as a community to educate ourselves on topics like Black History in order to understand the world we live in today. Additionally, to be educated in Black History is a way to support the Black community and be an ally. Black History month means equality. It is a month to recognize the inequalities Black communities face every day and how to help. Learning about the struggles that Black people faced and are still facing today is a way to express empathy and compassion.  With that being said, being educated on Black History allows you to show compassion towards others especially the Black community. Having compassion allows humans to come together and help each other.

On how I celebrate Black History Month:

Educate,

Read,

Listen.

As a cisgender, white female

I have privilege.

Therefore, to celebrate Black History month, I

Educate,

Read,

Listen.

Educate.

I educate myself on Black History,

On the inequalities from the past and the present.

Read.

I read about how to be an ally,

How to handle hard conversations around race,

How to support the Black Community.

Listen.

I listen to people in the Black Community.

Hear their experiences,

Hear the joy and the hardships of

Being a person of color

In America.

Written by Daphne Donigan

Reflections of a Community

Black history month is a month of conflicting emotions. It is a month to celebrate Black excellence, Black beauty, Black resilience, and Black triumph. However, I cannot shed the feeling of dejection when I think about the continuous history of adversity and violence toward the Black community. 

Thinking of Black history month reminds me of culture stolen by many without an appreciation of its origins and the lives lived by its creators.

No respect. 

No understanding. 

Black art, while beautiful, is layered in pain, anguish, and hope. To be part of the community reflects solidarity, care, and warmth. Two complete opposites. One created out of hate and the latter created out of necessity.

In this month, and beyond, I wish to celebrate the lives lost, the art emerged, the words spoken, and the community built. To me, Black history month means a pressing need for change. A need for unlearning. A need for education. A need for solidarity.

Written by Karla Ponce