Black History Month: Bellarmine’s Role

Taraneh Moeni

The month of February is dedicated to learning about Black History, a crucial and incredibly essential part of our education. High schools around the nation find different ways to incorporate lessons, assemblies, lectures, and other activities about black history during February, and hopefully, all year around.

Bellarmine kicked off February with introducing a theme for the month: “Black Family: Representation, Identity, and Diversity” including a brief description, which states that the theme, “will spotlight important figures in Black history and milestone events in the trajectory of Black life in America.” In the weeks following this introduction, Bellarmine pushed for the Formation periods to review and discuss biographies put together of prominent figures in Black History. The Black Student Union and the Journalism Broadcasting team also provided short videos from students, faculty, and alumni about what Black History Month means to them.

Though all of these outlets meant to develop students’ engagement in Black History Month were provided, none of them were required. Did students ignore and brush past all of these things, or were they just not enough?

One student had this to say: “Bellarmine provided us with several videos to watch to further our education of Black History which has consistently been a tool they’ve provided. Although this is nice to have, they haven’t really taken it to the next level.”

One suggestion from this student for Bellarmine to take their efforts to the next level was, “Bellarmine should consider making Black History into a half a semester class so we all have the opportunity to fully learn the accomplishments and challenges the African American community faced and continue to face.”

Broad activities offered by the administration to the whole student body can only reach an individual so much. Discussion in a more intimate and smaller setting can be just as beneficial, if not even more so for students to actively participate and develop their understanding of Black History. How about the action steps taken on a daily basis, in the classroom?

How has the Bellarmine faculty included lessons on black history into their many periods? Sophomore Ben Fowlkes touched on his experience with the prioritization of Black History from his own teachers. He said, “I would like to highlight one of my teachers who I believe did a fantastic job in teaching Black History, though not specifically for Black History Month. Mr. Whitson, one of our main music educators, incorporated a jazz history curriculum during the first semester of this school year for our two jazz classes. Because the majority of first semester was in distance learning, we were unable to do the traditional jazz curriculum, so he taught the history of jazz in America by highlighting different musicians and eras. He not only addressed the African roots of jazz and how it evolved to the jazz we have today, but also taught us about the adversity black musicians had to endure and the true cultural impact of jazz throughout American history. He went beyond the face value of jazz music from a music theory standpoint and went into depth on the culture and how jazz, coming from distinctly different roots than most American music at the time, was more than just another genre and was rooted in the historical struggle and experience African Americans had throughout their beginnings in America.”

However, not every class is the same, and not many students can say they’ve had similar experiences. Junior Westly Moran said, “I think that Bellarmine should have been more assertive through posters or artwork, and reaching out more to the community by putting out a message of Black History Month and the importance of it, because I feel that it was brushed over and only touched upon briefly.”

The efforts from Bellarmine were most likely altered due to the global pandemic and not having students on campus all together, however, this is not to dismiss any concerns or opinions from students. The difficulty lies in visually representing the importance of Black History specifically on campus currently, but there are methods to translating that to online.

Black History must be prioritized greatly in middle schools, high schools, colleges, and places of work all throughout the country. Bellarmine is just one school, but it is home to a community of people who care for one another, and want their education to be fulfilled to the highest capacity. This fulfillment requires being taught about every single part of our history as Americans, but most importantly, just as people. If we make half an attempt at that, no real progress will be made. Bellarmine will continue to reshape and work towards a more inclusive curriculum for all students, because it’s important to all of us.