Black History Month: Is it a celebration or instiutional polishing

Charley Connor and Imtasal Zubair

The month of February is nationally recognized as Black History Month. San Marin recognizes this cultural month made to acknowledge Black History and celebrate the accomplishments of black historical figures. Although having a singular month for Black History is controversial, staff and students still strongly believe Black History and other cultures’ histories should be recognized and celebrated all year round.

“I kind of don’t pay attention to Black History Month because I think of Black History as American history and I think we should be talking about it more as an integrated view,” Wesley Swedlow, English and Multicultural Literature teacher, said.

This goes along with NUSD’s resolution to both celebrate cultures during their celebratory month and throughout the year.

“We have a resolution that says that the learnings, teachings, and accomplishments of figures throughout history are recognized all year long, not just during that one month.” Principal Jennifer Larson said.

Yet, Swedlow believes that celebrating Black History Month, in some circumstances, can be counterintuitive and instead be an easy out for institutions and a way of forgetting.

“There is a concept called institutional polishing. It is where an institution tries to make itself look like it’s doing things without actually doing things,” Swedlow said. “When you relegate it to a month it becomes a dance of ‘we really think Black History is important, let’s talk about it and then forget about it for the rest of the year’”

Students like senior Jakayla McKee, agree with Swedlow. 

“I feel like companies only use that time of month to talk about BLM and represent the Black community only when it’s needed,” McKee said.

Yet, the school and administration are having a hard time representing Black History throughout the entire 28-29 days.

“I think during Black History Month there’s more involvement from people but I wouldn’t say it lasts the whole month. I really think it’s the first couple of days that are celebrated and then after that it kind of just dies out a little bit,” senior Mahalia Morgan said.

Larson plans on bringing staff and students together for more input to ultimately decide what San Marin will be doing this year fo r Black History Month. Morgan is part of the leadership committee planning activities for Black History Month. She believes there are also issues in how leadership has been collaborating with our administration to celebrate Black History.

“As far as collaboration in admin, it’s definitely been a little difficult to do stuff that is actually substantial which really needs the support of admin,” Morgan said. “When things aren’t super easy and take a little more than a statement, like planning and effort, we start to see their decline. I think that they are willing to do work but for some reason efforts diminish as we ask for stuff to be done.”

On the other hand, Morgan has seen more progressive efforts in changing the schools curriculum to encompass more Black History. However, students still believe that for Black History to be truly integrated into our curriculum and school, it’s going to take more than a few days of celebration.

“I think this is something that will take a while to be fixed, not just a month. It’s something that needs to be talked about during class and not just for a week. And not even just Black History but all minorities is something that we need to go over more,” McKee said.

Celebrating Black History during February and throughout the year is seen by many to be important to the community.

“More than anything it is acknowledging and making sure that students, families, and community members who identify with those groups who are being celebrated during that month have an opportunity to see themselves, but I really would hope that that would happen all year long, not during one month,” Larson said.

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