Dr. Dottie Morris presented her online webinar called “Why black history month? Why February?” on Wednesday, February 17. Dr. Morris is the Associate Vice President for Diversity and Equity at Keene State College. The audience included K-12 educators, paraprofessionals, administrators and students.
Every February Black History Month is celebrated to remember important events and people in African American history. According to Morris, it’s important that educators, parents and community members continue to celebrate Black history and spread awareness. Morris said, “Black history is all of our histories and it’s the connecting point for us all. People struggle to have conversations about this due to their fears of saying the wrong thing and offending someone. Providing space, a place and structure for people to have these conversations is key but difficult to do. The distance we have between us because of COVID has made it difficult to have deep conversations.”
Morris held this webinar because she deals with challenges regarding diversity and equality often. She said, “Since everyone is so busy, finding time, and to have sustained time to talk about these things is often a challenge. It’s not something that you can do once and you’re done. It’s an ongoing process of development.”
Today, colleges in the United States continue to deal with problems regarding equality. Morris said, “I think the first thing we have to do is realize that all of us are part of the campus climate. Everyone from the students to the faculty, to the staff, to any group of people that we might invite to work on campus including the Dining Commons cleaning staff. We are all a part of creating that environment. We all have to ask, ‘How am I contributing to the problem?’ The key place to start is by examining our own behavior.”
Eighth grade science teacher and President of Keene India Association Ritu Budakoti attended the webinar and had comments to share. Budakoti said, “I feel it is important for any institution to be proactive in developing and providing racial literacy training to faculty and staff. Such training can equip teachers to facilitate a dialogue when they witness racial encounters in class or on campus. We have to start taking the right steps in this direction, now!”
Budakoti also said, “It is important to continue to learn and teach about Black History Month, race and racial justice issues because I firmly believe that relearning and reconnecting with our past is critical for healing. As an educator, it is important for me to examine the historical facts from the lens of primary sources.”
Betsy Street, Project Leader at Keene State College, co-hosted the webinar. Street said, “One of the most important aspects of Black History Month is that it’s a really important journey we all have to take. I started my personal journey a couple years ago and my brain exploded with all the stuff I didn’t know about Black history and what was going on in Africa before slavery.” Black History Month was created in the United States by historian Carter G. Woodson in 1926. Today, people all over the world celebrate Black History Month during the month of February.
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