Bluefield College students celebrated African American History Month with a variety of activities in February, including a special convocation program, Wednesday, February 23.
Organized by students Keenan Rainer and Andrew McKinney and associate professor of language Dr. Gerardo Cummings, the African American History convocation featured music, a short film and a lecture, all designed to honor the heritage, culture and accomplishments of African Americans.
“I think Black History Month is important, and the reason it needs to be recognized in American history and world history, in general, is because it shows how far we’ve come,” said student Dawnn Fletcher about the significance of celebrating on the BC campus. “A lot of black people have done so many things. They’ve gone to the moon. They’ve fought for our civil rights. They’ve gotten us so far from where we were as slaves to being the president. That’s come a long way.”
Chad McMillian, president of PUSH Ministries, a non-profit, faith-based organization which promotes the power of community prayer, served as keynote speaker for the day. McMillian spoke about the need for spiritual balance and the importance of African American history for all ethnicities, not just African Americans
“I think it’s important (to celebrate African American History) because it teaches our heritage; it teaches us about our culture,” said BC’s Keith Jennings, assistant coach for men’s basketball. “I think it’s very important for us to make sure we understand what our ancestors went through. I talk to my children and want them to know what Martin Luther King, what Malcolm X, what Rosa Parks, what these black historians did for us during their time. If there is any way I can make a difference for our people, I’m striving to do that. I would encourage all of us to do that, in every culture, not just black people, everybody to uplift their people in some way.”
Dr. Cummings, who also serves as director of Global Education at BC, spoke about the African American influences in his life, including his father, an African American, and childhood friend, an Afro-Mexican.
Rainer and McKinney, who are well known for their musical creations as Flight24, produced and presented a short film during the convocation celebrating African Americans and featuring interviews and comments from Bluefield students. In addition, students Tehillah Johnson, Demarco King and Jonathan Penn sang a variety of spirituals.
“A lot of people don’t really know African American history, especially the younger generation,” said student Nago Mbengue. “The younger generation needs to know what our history is and where we come from.”
Americans have recognized African American History Month formally since 1926, first as Negro History Week, later as Black History Month, and before African American history was studied or even documented. Bluefield College students have recognized the event over the years typically during the school’s weekly convocation programs in February.
“Now we have a black president, we have black CEOs, we have black principals, and we have athletes we look up to that are black,” said BC alumnus Ben Smalls. “For us to celebrate Black History Month assures us that we remember that we can accomplish anything we want. But, I don’t think it should be a celebration of just 30 days. I think we can celebrate our accomplishments every day of the year.”