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    Black History Month chapel participants pose for a picture after chapel. Sophie Zetzsche.
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    Singers perform a Negro Spiritual song at Black History Month chapel. Dr. Pinkett Smith.
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    Junior Lauren Hill speaks at Black History Month chapel. Dr. Pinkett Smith. Sophie Zetzsche.

Because of Them…I Can: Black History Month

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People often think of February as the month of love, complete with boxes of heart-shaped chocolate and teddy bears, but behind the lovey-dovey-ness that is Valentine’s Day, February also brings with it the month-long celebration that is Black History Month.

Black History Month is the “annual celebration by African Americans and a time for recognizing the central role of blacks in U.S. history” (History.com). The event started as “Negro History Week” in 1926. The idea originated from Carter G. Woodson, an African American historian, author, journalist and the founder of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (History.com). Woodson is famous for a lot of the books he wrote, but his most famous book is the Mis-Education of the Negro teaching African American self-empowerment (Biography.com).

In 1976, Negro History Week was transformed into Black History Month by President Gerald Ford for the public “to seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history” (History.com).

“[Black History Month] is the one out of twelve months that we get to acknowledge all different types of history and getting this opportunity [to celebrate] means something to me,” said Basketball Coach and PE teacher Demetrius Frazier.

“Black History Month is a time to learn more about African American culture. It’s a time to value and appreciate how African Americans overcame hardship. It makes me really appreciate the opportunities I have today,” said senior Hannah Sterling.

Black History Month at Wesleyan was celebrated in full swing with posters placed all over the school that “celebrate the unsung heroes of black history. [The posters] give [us] an opportunity to look deeper than the surface and celebrate what we do not know and appreciate those things and those people,” said Director of Diversity Dr. Jennifer Pinkett Smith.

Along with the placement of posters highlighting the works of many different African Americans, the middle school celebrated Black History Month by doing projects separated by grade level. The fifth and sixth graders did a project entitled Because of Them…I Can. The project allows students to highlight an African American individual who inspires them.

Seventh and eighth graders read the article The Green Book: The Black Traveler’s Guide to Jim Crow Americaby Victor Hugo Green. They had the opportunity to discuss The Green Book in groups and then they mapped out the journey of a family across five different states according to The Green Book.

The high school and middle school also celebrated Black History Month with a chapel service dedicated to Black History Month. The chapel commenced with prayers, poems and readings by African Americans read by Wesleyan students and Negro Spiritual songs sang by Jennifer Allen, Princess Starr, Roslyn Compton, Mark Harkness, sophomore Connie Harris, Dr. Jennifer Pinkett Smith and Reverend Wayland Connor. “We all at sang together at one point, but now we all go to different churches, so whenever we  have an opportunity to worship together, we do it,” said Pinkett Smith.

Reverend Wayland Connor, an ordained elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Church and Senior Pastor of Greater Saint Peter Church in Jonesboro, spoke on why Black History Month is important to him and how God has worked through his life.

“I read Reverend Wayland Connor’s biography. His biography helped me just get to know him better and gave me some background on his life,” said junior Lanni Brown.

Black History chapel was an incredible way for Wesleyan students to experience the culture that comes with Black History. “Chapel that week was so awesome. I loved learning the Negro Spiritual songs and getting to worship in a new way,” said senior Hannah Hufham.

Black History Month is a very important month to celebrate the accomplishments of African Americans.

“Today, I get to live the life that my grandfather could not live,” said Frazier.

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