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Black at Rice: Black students reflect on Black History Month

Illustrated by Chloe Xu

By Ella Feldman     2/18/20 9:11pm

This February marks a year of Black at Rice, a features series created with the intention of highlighting and celebrating Black voices on and off campus. For the anniversary and for Black History Month, the Features staff decided to do something a little different with the series. Rather than feature one student, we asked past participants and nominees of Black at Rice to tell us, in their own words, what Black History Month means to them. Here’s what they told us.

“One of my favorite poems is I, Too by Langston Hughes. The first time I saw this poem was on Twitter. And I just fell in love with it. I read it over and over again. I think it just so eloquently and efficiently explains the history of Black people in America. We too are America. We too are history. We too allowed this nation to be what it is. We too are so intricately woven into the narrative of how America views itself — both positively and negatively. And of course, that negative aspect is the way America has treated Black people since its conception. That’s where the shame comes from. And last, I love how Hughes emphasizes how beautiful he is — we are. We too can be and are beautiful. And we too call and try to make America beautiful as well. I think the poem is a journey. Of where Black people once were and where Hughes wants them to be. And with that, how Hughes wants the nation to view them. Also, I think that the poem just makes me feel strong. It’s through struggle that Hughes discusses becoming strong. And through that strength he sees his beauty and reverence as an American. He laughs in the face of adversity. He welcomes it at his door. I wish to be that brave and try to turn all of my struggles into a lesson and an example to be learned from.” — Gabrielle Falcon, Martel College senior

“Black History Month has always been an important month for me. It is one of the few times of the year that I get to hear about important events in Black history and have my culture celebrated. However, there are lots of issues with Black History Month. It focuses on a very specific point in Black history and cycles through the same Black people year after year. It has devolved from a genuine appreciation of Black culture to a performative act of integration. Black History Month has become a crutch for White people to say that they care about Black issues while still benefiting from White supremacy and the mistreatment of minorities. It is important to make sure that Black History Month is used as a way to uplift the Black community instead of something you cross off a checklist every year.” — Eddie Jackson, Baker College junior

“To celebrate Black History Month, I enjoy immersing myself in Black art, in all of its forms. To be honest, I surround myself with Black art on a regular basis, but I am especially intentional about doing so during this month. There are various events held on campus and in the Houston area that help promote Black artists, such as the Moody with their recently open “Radical Revisionist” Exhibition as well as the upcoming “Black Girl Church” film screening. I’ve only truly celebrated Black History Month and somewhat my Blackness while being at Rice. Growing up abroad in Qatar, I was not necessarily encouraged to, or forced to, live through my race. Thus, my Black History Month celebrations are defined by how I celebrate them at Rice, which I’ve learned involves putting my heart into events such as Africayé, attending the Soul Food luncheon, educating myself about Black icons, having a beautiful time bonding with members of the Black community at cookouts that we organize for ourselves. Black History Month, for me, is a time to showcase all the resilience, beauty, art, camaraderie and so much more that has come out of the Black experience in the U.S. However, it’s crucial to remember and celebrate all that has come out of the Black experience everyday beyond this month.” — Magdah Omer, Baker College sophomore

“Black History Month is a time when we can reflect and spread awareness of a part of the history of our country which gets ignored very often. In my family, we generally take some time to talk about leaders in the different Black cultures of the world, but it's not just for people with Black heritage. Everyone can learn from these stories and understand much more about the successes of our culture. After visiting the African Heritage Museum in D.C. a little over a year ago, it gave me a new perspective on the cultural movements led by Black leaders. Having come from schools with very small Black populations, I didn't learn much about Black History except from my parents. I'd definitely encourage just about everyone to go to some exhibits and talks regardless of how much they know. Getting some bullet points from a textbook is something, but there's so much more to learn.” — James Alex Warner, Baker College senior

Editor’s Note: This is an installment of Black at Rice, a features series intended to highlight and celebrate Black voices on and off campus. Have someone in mind? Nominate them here.

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