The Meaning of Black History Month

Every time the month of February rolls around, it seems like social media is overflowing with information about Black History Month. There tends to be an increase in discussion about the the historical contributions of the familiar Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, Rosa Parks, Oprah Winfrey and Barack Obama (to name a few). While these names are known for making great strides throughout history, it is important to recognize the importance of this month beyond a few famous names. This month is so much more than posting your favorite MLK quote. It is about recognition and celebration of a rich history that should be carried on through the other 11 months of the year.


This month I wanted to talk one-on-one with a student to learn what this month means to them and what they do to celebrate during the month of February as well as the rest of the year. Sandra Prendergast is a first-year at Mount Holyoke College who is pursuing a major in English. The Staten Island native plays on the Mount Holyoke Lacrosse team and is a force to be reckoned with on the field. I sat down with Sandra to ask what this month means to her and how she has celebrated over the years.


Q: What does Black History Month mean to you?

S: For me, Black History Month is a time when we as a country can reflect back on all the history that goes unheard and what we aren't taught. It's a time where black excellence can be showcased.


Q: What do you wish more people would understand about this month?

S: What I wish people would understand more about Black History Month is that after February ends, that doesn't mean that we stop talking about the impact that African Americans have on society. We shouldn’t stop discussing all the important and influential things that have happened. We shouldn’t stop talking about it because this month is supposed to help us start the conversation and continue it.


Q: How has your interpretation of this month changed over the years?

S: For myself, when I was younger I didn't quite get that I was of mixed race, I just understood my sister and I had different skin tones and my mom was dark and part of my family was black. It didn't mean anything to me really since I was brought up in a diverse family. However, now I know that as I get older, this month continues to mean something more personal. It’s a month where I get to recognize my ancestors’ victories and the success stories of my family members.


Q: What were you taught about this month growing up (in school and from your family)?

S: In school, I was taught about black history makers and influential figures, but more just when Black History Month came around. In my family, as I got older, it became a big deal and my mom and her family and my dad wanted me to recognize all the icons and big figures that have helped shape black history. I was taught that this is a month to be proud of my background and family.


Q: How has your racial/ethnic identity shaped the way you celebrate this month?

S: Being mixed race has definitely impacted how I celebrate this month. It changes my view on this just being another month to being a time where black people are actually recognized, and the horrible things we endured get remembered—and that the fight isn't over yet. I celebrate the idea that people are aware and open to learning more about this month and the people who contribute to it.



Rosa Parks



Q: Is there a specific black woman from history who inspires you? What about a black woman from today?

S: Black women that have inspired me in history has to be a tie between Rosa Parks and Coretta Scott King. The black women that inspire me today would have to be my mom and my sister.


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