Feb. 1 marks the beginning of Black History Month nationwide.
To honor the month-long celebration, KSC’s Cultural Center is planning a series of lectures and films, starting with a community reading and discussion on Jan. 31 of excerpts from two speeches by Dr. Martin Luther King, including his 1962 “Towards Freedom” speech. The discussion was facilitated by Dottie Morris, the associate vice president for equity and diversity.
Morris said she hopes students will attend the events, as there are many more occurring than in previous years. This was requested by students last year who wanted to see more things happen at Keene State in regard to Black History Month.
Black History Month was started in 1926 when historian Carter G. Woodson wanted to educate and raise awareness about what contributions African Americans made to society. At first, it was called Negro History Week and took place in February around Abe Lincoln’s and Fredrick Douglasses Birthdays. It was a success, and as years went on, more people celebrated and supported the historical event, which eventually became an important part of celebrating Black history.
In 1976, the week of awareness was expanded to a month of awareness as more and more Americans began to recognize and celebrate the important roles African Americans have played in United States history.
When asked why Morris was so passionate about the topic of diversity she said, “My goal is for each student to feel like they have a place, and they can be free with who they are.” She said that when students came up to her saying that they didn’t think the college was doing enough for Black History Month, she took it as a challenge to make more things happen.
Morris believes that “when people feel like they belong, they are more likely to stay and persevere, and most of all they are more likely to contribute to the environment in a way because they feel like it’s theirs.”
Morris talked about starting with a singular person, and then the impact they can have on a community and why that impact is important. “This whole idea with feeling like everyone has something to contribute, and if we start here and then they take it out to their work environment, and then to their personal lives, they really feel emboldened to be someone who has something to contribute. I think we all benefit when everyone is working at their fullest potential,” she said.
Molly Lu McKellar can be contacted