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Kellogg Black History Month Reflections: Stephon Davis

The entire Kellogg community celebrated Black History Month this February. Inside Kellogg is featuring a series of reflections from members of the Kellogg Black Management Association, which sponsored events, conferences and discussions throughout the month.

by Stephon Davis, 2Y 2018

I’ve shared a few times that Black History Month is not something I’ve really celebrated since I was in grade school. I simply believe that my history – black history – is American history. As such, a month (the shortest month) is not enough. I for one, would rather just take the entire year to reflect on and celebrate black history.

Nowadays, I moonlight as a co-president of the Black Management Association. I do believe the BMA should take advantage of a month during the school year to lead the reflection and share our culture with the greater Kellogg community.

But why should we pause? Why should they pause? Why is there a Black History Month? Carter G. Woodson once said, “If a race has no history, it has no worthwhile tradition, it becomes a negligible factor in the thought of the world, and it stands in danger of being exterminated.” It stands in danger of being EXTERMINATED.

When enslaved Africans were brought to America they were stripped of their language, their names, their religion and their way of life. They were indoctrinated into a life of slavery and systematically programmed to see themselves as inferior. Without the ability to read and write each new generation of slaves, was even more separated from the history of the people they used to be. This erasure of identity has had long-lasting effects, many of which blacks are still dealing with in 2018.

The idea that colonization somehow brought religion and order to the people of Africa is FAKE NEWS! By the time Rome was built, Egypt was already more than 2,000 years old and had advanced medicine, technology and arts. Ghana was like a medieval European empire, with a collection of powerful rulers, trading gold, salt and copper. From the 13th to the 15th century, the kingdom of Mali spread across much of West and Northeast Africa. At its largest, the kingdom was 2,000 km wide and there was an organized trading system. Gold dust and agricultural produce were exported north. Timbuktu was one of the most important places in the world. Libraries and universities were built and it became the meeting place for poets, scholars and artists from other parts of Africa and the Middle East. Africa was thriving before Europeans arrived.

Enduring slavery and the gruesome era of Jim Crow, blacks not only survived but also chiseled away at racist systems, making it possible for students that look like me to enjoy the freedoms associated with being an American. They invented. They innovated. The gas mask, folding beds, traffic signals, a mechanical shoe assembly device, even the potato chip are all attributed to black inventors.

It is undeniable that blacks have made valuable contributions in a wide variety of fields. Racism, then and now, has prevented blacks from getting their due recognition. So why do we pause? We pause because all of us should embrace not only the struggles but also the achievements of blacks. We pause because so many were beaten and so many gave their lives for us to be here today. Together, we can make sure black history is never exterminated.