Published in the January 25, 2017 issue of The Bells
Martin Luther King Jr, Rosa Parks, Susan B. Anthony, Oprah Winfrey, Langston Hughes, Barack Obama, and many others. Every individual has a unique story that is woven into the dynamic history of hardships and triumphs of the black community.
Each year, the United States honors the black community and their achievements during the month of February. According to history.com, every U.S. president has set aside February as Black History Month since President Ford in 1976.
This year, Humanities professors Dr. Janene Lewis and Dr. Nathaniel Hansen hosted the First Annual Black History Month Writing Contest for UMHB students.
Because this was the first year, the only requirements for the contest were that the entries had to be unpublished and able to be read aloud in under 15 minutes. Students could turn in entries to Dr. Hansen until Tues. Jan. 17.
The winners of this contest will have the opportunity to present their work at the Windhover Writer’s Festival on Feb. 15-17.
“One of the cool things about this contest is that the top three or four entries will have a spot on a panel at the Windhover Writer’s Festival,” Lewis said.
“We have people come from across the country to the writer’s festival, so it’s a good time for student writers to get their voice out there.”
Although there was not a specific writing topic for the contest, Dr. Lewis suggested that entrants write about faith and its role in African-American culture since this is a predominate theme at the festival.
Lewis and Dr. Hansen created this contest to spark conversations about a month that can sometimes be overlooked.
“We don’t do much with Black History month,” Lewis said. “This is a small way to start that conversation.”.
Junior english major Guillermo Lopez chose to submit two pieces of poetry to express his views on racial equality not only for African-Americans but all races.
“I entered this contest because I wanted to express my understanding of what I believe Black History Month signifies: equality despite racial status.”
Lewis believes that honoring Black History Month is important because it is important to not let a topic such as race divide a country.
“Black History Month commemorates numerous leaders who clarified the position African-American citizens had in the States. These leaders stood and fought for beliefs that gave African-American citizens a chance to be equal through all aspects of life,” he said. “Though the focus was on the integration of African-Americans, other minorities could also learn from this. I think the importance in writing about Black History Month focuses on reminding people that race shouldn’t be the thing that divides us.”
Depending on the response received by the student body, Lewis is considering having other contests to honor other special months throughout the year.
“Our campus is growing more diverse. We need to honor a variety of voices,” Lewis said. “Maybe we can do writing contests in honor of other months. Maybe Hispanic Heritage Month or Women’s History. We’ll start with this one and see how it goes.”