Monday, February 02, 2009

6394: BHM Blurb.


Black History Month has added meaning in 2009

By Rebecca Kern, USA TODAY

Frederick Barron, 17, a senior at North Atlanta High School in Atlanta, says the election of Barack Obama as the first African-American president is making Black History Month come to life.

“Barack Obama is opening our hearts and minds to the true meaning of Black History Month,” Barron said. “African Americans won’t be viewed as just a minority but as people who make a difference.”

Obama’s election, and this year’s 100th anniversary of the NAACP, means there has probably never been more reason to celebrate the annual February observance, black leaders and historians say.

“We celebrate whenever a glass ceiling is broken and the presidency may be the highest glass ceiling,” said Benjamin Todd Jealous, president and CEO of the NAACP, which is celebrating its 1909 founding this year.

But those leaders also agree those milestones don’t mean that racial inequalities no longer exist. While Obama’s breaking of the color barrier in the White House may make the NAACP’s job easier, Jealous said they will pressure Obama just as they have past presidents.

“We won’t be post-racial until we are post-racism,” Jealous said.

Gerald Early, a professor of African American Studies at Washington University in St. Louis, said that Obama’s election should not be viewed as the end of racism, but “should be taught as an event that signaled a new era in American race relations.”

“With Obama as president, I think people are more optimistic about race relations than they’ve been in a long time,” he said.

This optimism is seen in Black History Month celebrations planned throughout this month in the 1,700 local NAACP units and hundreds of primary, secondary and university campuses nationwide.

This year’s Black History Month theme is “The Quest for Citizenship in the Americas,” determined by the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, said Daryl Scott, vice president for programs.

Stephanie Smith Budhai, 23, head of the University of Maryland’s Black History Month Committee, said the theme correlates well with Obama’s presidency.

“Barack Obama shows that (African Americans’) citizenship is just as important as the citizenship of any other ethnicity or race,” she said.

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