This fall, discussions on racial justice moved to the forefront of national dialogue, prompting rallies, riots and numerous conversations between administrators and students on college campuses across the country. February has been designated as Black History Month since 1976. This February, Georgetown students have ample opportunity to further their solidarity with the black community and contribute to the discussion on race in the United States. Because of the student-led Black Leadership Forum and other organizations on campus, Hoyas of all backgrounds and identities can attend a series of events that all students and staff should take advantage of.
Among the events taking place over the coming weeks is Outspoken, an open-mic event featuring spoken word performances centered on issues of black history and culture; a cooking class held by the African Society of Georgetown; and a talk on how the legacy of black leaders like Malcolm X intersect with modern-day feminism. For those who wish to deepen their understanding of the diversity present in black culture to become better allies, these and other events are excellent chances to do so.
It is important to recognize, for example, that the black experience is far greater than a history of struggle. Instead, Black History Month is a celebration of black communities and the beauty of black culture.
Living in D.C., students and staff also have access to an even wider variety of Black History Month events outside of campus. The Newseum will be displaying a commemorative exhibit exploring the legacy of the Civil Rights Movement, now in its 50th year, and the Josiah Henson Historic Site in North Bethesda — honoring the former slave whose 1849 autobiography inspired “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” — will be offering free guided tours.
Engaging with these opportunities in the greater D.C. area is especially salient when considering the city’s rich legacy of black history and our place within it as Georgetown students. Washington, D.C., is far more than Capitol Hill and the White House; one cannot fully engage with the story of this city without learning about its foundation in slavery, the uprisings during the Civil Rights era following Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, the influence of Marion Barry as a central political figure and the enduring struggles against gentrification of primarily black communities.
As members of not only a deeply interfaith and intercultural university but also an equally diverse city, Georgetown students and staff ought to consider Black History Month an opportunity to strengthen their engagement with their community. In addition, Georgetown students should keep in mind that black history and the experiences of the black community in the present-day United States cannot be relegated to a single month. Rather, we should consider Black History Month as a potential springboard into contemporary issues of racial justice and commit to maintaining these important conversations throughout the year.
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