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ISSUE 121 VOL 11 PUBLISHED 2/22/2008

History honored

By Ellen Weaver
Contributing Writer

Friday, February 22, 2008

During the month of February, students may not be surprised to find powerful poetry performed, or see classmates wearing buttons stating "I (Heart) Black People." Cultural Union for Black Expression (CUBE) organizes these events each year in Feb. to celebrate Black History Month.

Throughout February, CUBE leads discussions, open mic nights, poetry readings, and many other celebrations. The theme for this year is "a long way in a short time." Working with that idea, Shiquita Bradford '09, president of CUBE, hopes that these events bring people to the table to talk about the issues at hand regarding not only African American history but issues that are still present.

Lynette Simpson '11, member of CUBE, stresses the importance of these events. "I want people to understand that the struggle for equality isn't over. We can't keep ignoring it.

At a discussion titled "Why I Love Black People," CUBE members discussed how to begin open dialogues about the issues and struggles of minorities on campus. Students openly discussed the controversy many found in CUBE's distribution of buttons stating "I (heart) Black People." Bradford insisted that CUBE "was not trying to be exclusive in any way."

Other members wanted the buttons to represent the pride they have for their group and to bring awareness to CUBE.

CUBE began in 1968 when Ron Hunter formed the Black Student Union in response to the protests and events of the Civil Rights Movement. Bradford describes CUBE's mission as relatively the same mission Hunter had: "Raising awareness about the African-American presence in the St. Olaf Community."

The celebration of Black History Month and the study and awareness of black history and African American presence was largely influenced by Dr. Carter G. Woodson. The scholar was disturbed to find that history books largely ignored the black American population. When blacks did figure into the picture, he saw that it was generally in ways that reflected the inferior social position they were assigned at the time.

Bradford spoke in chapel on February 14 about the lack of African-American history. It is a history of a people who, according to Bradford, have "for over 300 years have suffered inequality and pain brought about by human cruelty."

To recognize the positive contributions to the United States made by African Americans, the first observance of Black History Month occurred Feb. 12, 1926. The second week of February was set aside to coincide with the birthdays of black abolitionist and editor Frederick Douglass and president Abraham Lincoln. In 1976, the week was expanded into Black History Month.

The month of February marks many other important historical landmarks in African American civil rights. On Feb. 3, 1870, the 15th Amendment was passed, granting blacks the right to vote. On Feb. 12, 1909, The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People was founded by a group of concerned black and white citizens in New York City.

Throughout Black History Month, CUBE wants to bring awareness to this history, but insists that being aware of others does not stop at the end of February. Simpson suggests that students stay involved by "going to CUBE, making friends with people who they usually wouldn't, and learning about others' lives and struggles." Our biggest enemy is ignorance.

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