This reflective article was written by Walter M. Goodwyn, Jr., Director, Emerging Scholars Program/Office of Multicultural Engagement at Concordia University Wisconsin
When I pause and think about the celebration of Black History Month, I am immediately taken to its historic founder, Carter J. Woodson. Nobody in history has played a more instrumental role in helping all Americans know the history of black people than Woodson. He is the person recognized as creating what we now celebrate as Black History Month and was the catalyst when he created Negro History Week in Washington, D.C. We all owe him a large portion of gratitude and sincere recognition.
Scouring deep into the history of my ancestors, I am able to rediscover stories and heroes who were and still are rooted in the tenants of faith, hope, and courage. The realization that Black History did not start with slavery, but at the beginning of humanity, fills me with hope and gives me a sense of unmeasured pride. Born in 1970 and growing up in the South, I was able to experience and hear through books, my father, and other media, about black heroes and heroines like Madam CJ Walker, Frederick Douglas, Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr., who all fought for justice and equality. Learning about their roles in the black American struggle makes me hold my head a little higher and walk with my back a little straighter. It also makes me want to share with others.
Woodson had two goals when he created Black History Week. One was using historical facts to prove to white America that blacks played important roles in America’s creation and thereby deserve to be treated equally as citizens. The second goal of celebrating heroic black figures – be they inventors, soldiers, or entertainers – was to help prove our worth, believing equality would soon follow.
As I take some time to celebrate Black History Month here at Concordia University Wisconsin, I have to stop and ask myself is it still relevant today and can it still serve as a vehicle for change? The answer that I give myself is an emphatic yes! Black History Month is a time of remembrance and reflection, and a time of engagement and learning for others. I choose to take this valuable time to enlighten and pour into others the rich history of my forefathers and contributions of African Americans alike. By doing this, I am hopeful that people will be motivated to contribute in a positive manner to the world in which we live. I celebrate Woodson and all who came before him to give Black people a voice in a place where they did not have one. Every day, I commit to Black History. Not just here at Concordia, but every place I go.
This story was written by Walter M. Goodwyn Jr., Concordia University Wisconsin’s Director, Emerging Scholars Program/Office of Multicultural Engagement
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