The acknowledgements and celebrations that recognize Black History Month — held every year from Feb. 1-28 — have begun in homes, schools and colleges like Cal State University Northridge, churches and museums, athletic stadiums, concert halls and film festivals.
But there is a different feel to the annual event this year in an America where non-white and gender-bending people are being verbally and physically victimized daily, and opportunities for education and a chance to grow and prosper are becoming limited.
“Black History Month has a term called ‘Sankofa,’ a Ghanaian word that means to go back and get it,” said events organizer Cedric Hackett, a professor in CSUN’s Department of Africana Studies and director of the university’s W.E.B. DuBois-Hamer Institute for Academic Achievement.
“In order for us as a community to move forward, we have to look back so we understand where we have been and that we bloom where we are planted. In this day and age, we have to really sustain our generational consciousness. Every generation has a certain memory, and if we don’t look back to look forward there can be some disconnect between generations.”
Some of that is reflected in the planned events at CSUN and other places in the San Fernando Valley.
The theme of this year’s CSUN celebrations is “State of Black Consciousness 2.0: Merging Knowledge and Applications.” It’s an extension of campus celebration of “the inception of the Africana Studies Department, Hackett said. The theme focuses on the generational consciousness — the concept of one generation trying to understand the previous generation’s plight to empower students of all ethnicities and generations to overcome adversities.
Northridge’s festivities will be initiated by Africana Studies professor Aimee Glocke’s lecture, “Is the Black Aesthetic Dead? Posting the Black Aesthetic in the Era of Trap Music, Twerking and The Black Panther,” on Friday, Feb. 2, at 11 a.m. in the Flintridge Room of the University Student Union (USU) on the east side of the campus at 18111 Nordhoff Street in Northridge.
But more challenging programs await, such as the discussion on “Black Lives Matter LA and LA Black Panthers” on Feb. 21, from 2-4 p.m. in the Ferman Presentation Room, featuring Melina Abdullah of Black Lives Matter LA and Harold Welton of LA Black Panthers.
A movement borne out of the frustration and revulsion at the killings of black male teens and adults since 2012 — often by police — there are now 40 chapters (including in Canada and Britain) of Black Lives Matter, including Los Angeles.
Black Lives Matter has invigorated a new generation of African American activists. It continues to document and pressure police departments, their civilian commissions and politicians for changes in policies regarding confrontation, crowd control and the use of deadly force. Other social and political movements have since risen, including “#MeToo” where women are identifying incidents of sexual harassment from Hollywood studios to corporate boardrooms, and challenging companies (in particular, US banks) to reveal their data regarding equal pay and diversity in the workforce.
“Information technology has changed the way we do social activism. It reaches far and wide to examine our struggle and call to action,” Hackett said. “But unfortunately, the opposition also uses social media as a vehicle to promote their hate rhetoric and idealogical productions of oppression…With any type of movement there is blacklash.”
Also expected to draw more attention is the Third Annual Black Youth Guidance Forum that will take place on Feb. 10, from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the USU’s Northridge Center. The free event is hosted by the W.E.B. DuBois-Fannie Lou Hamer Institute for Academic Achievement and a variety of CSUN departments and is centered around the topic “The Healthy Habits & Literacy Imperative for Communities of Color.”
“We’re looking at culturally responsive types of approaches to learning student engagement,” Hackett said. “I really want to bring the community to campus to look at ways to mitigate the achievement gap and promote academic success in post secondary education towards communities of color, and particularly African Americans.”
Black History Month in the United States was created in 1926, when historian Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History — a nonprofit organization (renamed the Association for the Study of African-American Life and History in 1973) — declared the second week in February “Negro History Week.”
A change to Black History Month was proposed by African American educators and students at Kent State University in 1969. By 1976 Gerald Ford became the first president to officially designate February as Black History Month, with every president following suit.
But in 2018, it may no longer be a matter of simply listing and applauding historic African American figures who excelled in science, education, athletics, the arts, politics or entrepreneurship.
Not when too many people are again feeling fragmentized, marginalized and ostracized in American society.
Other scheduled events include CSUN’s Delmar T. Oviatt Library hosting a series of celebratory Black History Month programs, including:
— Vocal Artillery (Poetry/Spoken Word) on Feb. 7, from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. in the Oviatt Library Learning Commons.
— A series of step show(s) on the Oviatt Library portico and/or stairs.
— A screening of “The Nov. 4th Incident (The Storm at Valley State),” followed by a reception on, Feb. 28, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Throughout the month of February, library personnel will create and gather video clips on the topic “Why Does Black History Matter?” Sessions are scheduled for four days over two weeks in February: Feb. 6, and Feb. 7, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.; and Feb. 13, and Feb. 14, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
The Department of Africana Studies will feature:
— A lecture on hip hop by Alonzo Williams and Clientele on Feb. 5, from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. in the Flintridge Room.
— The Black Male Symposium Male Minority (M3), presented by Hackett, CSUN political science professor Boris Ricks and social work professor Allen Lipscomb, will take place from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Feb. 7, in the Whitsett Room of Sierra Hall on the west side of the campus.
— A screening of “American Promise,” with directors Joe Brewster and Michele Stephenson, will take place from 1 p.m. to 3:15 p.m. on Feb. 10, at the Chatsworth branch of the Los Angeles Public Library at 21052 Devonshire St.
— The NBCUniversal Black Employee Network (BEN) Panel “Leveraging Diversity Through Adversity” will take place on Feb. 14, from 2:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. in the USU’s Lake View Terrace Room.
— A meeting of the Habesha Student Union on Friday, Feb. 16, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the USU’s Northridge Center.
— A historical panel examining the legacy of Africana studies will take place on Feb. 19, from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. in the USU’s Flintridge Room.
— GROOV3 Hip Hop Dance Class with Benjamin Allen & D.J. Black Rabbit will take place in Redwood Hall room 292 on Feb. 21, from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m.
For more information about CSUN’s Black History Month activities, contact the Department of Africana Studies at (818) 677-3311.