Michael Jordan rocked the sports arena with his athletic ability. Martin Luther King Jr. rocked the nation with his dream. Aretha Franklin just rocks.
While not every exceptional contribution by African-Americans can be summed up in any article, these and other African-Americans command great reputations and respect.
As Black History Month comes to a close, it is important to realize this month serves not only to highlight the familiar faces of the black community, but also to inspire unity and understanding of an American culture often overlooked.
One aspect of national attention turning to the role of blacks began in 1926. A Harvard scholar and son of former slaves, Carter Woodson discovered a lack of African-Americans in the history records although he knew these people played an integral role.
Woodson selected the second week in February for Negro History Week. But later it was discovered one week was not enough, and in 1976, February was appropriately designated Black History Month.
Although February is the shortest month, it marks the birthdays of two men who greatly altered life for black American citizens: Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.
Upon the implementation of the original week-long celebration, Woodson said, “We should emphasize not Negro history, but the Negro in history. What we need is not a history of selected races or nations, but the history of the world void of national bias, race hate and religious preference.”
Woodson hoped that one day, a special week or month would not be needed to educate people and achieve unity across the entire human race.
Most grade school students remember the stories of cotton fields and lynchings in the South more than the tales of the brilliant careers and efforts of these Americans. Setting aside a month of curriculum filled with biographies and awe-inspiring stories of African-Americans will aid in achieving Woodson’s dream.
BYU’s Black History Month celebration bears the theme: “Beyond the Dream: Unity, Education and Understanding.” Among the gospel singers, booths, fliers and speeches is that dream. Unity is not an easy goal for so small a group in the midst of a vast population.
There are only 128 black students among the 32,731 students at BYU. This may be one of the smallest minority groups on BYU campus, but the support and awareness achieved in this year’s celebration has been exceptional, and students campus-wide pulled together to achieve the dream.
Efforts to reach out to all BYU students have been deemed successful this year, but there is always the thought that some day this will not be necessary — that some day, all Americans will be recognized for talent and intelligence regardless of their heritage.
In the words of Jesse Jackson, “Our nation is a rainbow — red, yellow, brown, black and white — and we’re all precious in God’s sight.”