Black History Month Begins at Laney College

Laney College kicked off Black History Month February 1 on the main quad.

Laney College Interim President Dr. Elnora Webb speaks at Black History Month Kick-Off with Dr. Karolyn Van Puten and Tamika Brown

The event began with a Lift E’ry Voice and Sing – the Black National Anthem – performed members of the Laney Black Student Union. The quad was decorated with red, black and green balloons.

African American Studies professor Tamika Brown, chair of the Ethnic Studies department, discussed the 2010 Black History Month theme, “The History of Black Economic Empowerment.” She said the theme is significant today, and to upcoming campus events.

“We’ll have people talking about Green Jobs and how Black people fit into that new economy,” Brown said, “as well as how the economy is affecting Black men.”

In some urban areas, the unemployment rate is as high as 50 percent, according to Brown.

“We’ll also discuss racism in society. Does it still exist post-Obama?” Brown asked.

Faculty Senate President Dr. Karolyn Van Puten said that Black History Month speaks to the “peculiar history” of the United States and the need for people of African Descent to “reclaim our identity from what was trashed,” referring to enslavement.

“Take this opportunity to expand beyond this black skin,” Van Puten said. She added that Black History Month is relevant to all people, not just African Americans.

Acting College President Dr. Elnora Webb spoke of the crippling affect slavery and racism has had on the psychology of African Americans, and the need to find value in all people.

“It’s important to know who we are and why we feel how we feel,” Webb said. “It’s important because the way we feel about ourselves has an impact on how we treat ourselves and other folks.”

Webb added that many of the behaviors have been passed down from slavery, generation to generation, but African people have a history beyond slavery.

“Slavery is just a recent part of our history,” Webb said. “We need to understand history to understand who we are as a complete people.”

Laney BSU spokesman Ray Henderson encouraged students to be active in the fight against budget cuts.

“We are fighting for our education,” Henderson said, and to “get people off the streets so they can learn.”

Laney BSU members then showcased some of their musical talents, rapping and reciting poetry.

Scholar Carter G. Woodson originally started Black History Month in 1926. It began as Negro History Week, but later became Black History Month. Woodson selected the month of February because it was the month both abolitionist Frederick Douglas and President Abraham Lincoln were born.

February 1 was the 50th anniversary of The Greensboro Four sit-in. The demonstration ushered in a new era or youth-led direct action tactics for civil rights.

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