GUEST COLUMN: Why you should support and engage in Black History Month events

Courtesy Photo | Wade Tomson

Each year as the week for the annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., celebration comes about, Multicultural Academic Student Services (MASS) is beguiled with excitement. 

The week of activities is generally our biggest week of the year, so there’s a bit of pressure to get it right. Even though the planning process for the week is long and often faces many hurdles, thankfully we have amazing campus partners who have our back and it always comes through in the end. 

It’s hard not to take immense pride in seeing (in pre-COVID 19 times) 750+ members of the CMU community come together to embrace the legacy of Dr. King, all as one. However, I can’t help but wonder, what happens to that level of excitement at the end of the week? 

The difference in time between MLK Week and Black History Month is 15 days. The difference in attendance between MLK Week and Black History Month (or any other cultural heritage month) is in the 100s. 

Keeping it simple, “where you at?”

Every year we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, Native American Heritage Month, Black History Month, Asian Pacific American Heritage Month and Arab American Heritage Month. The goal that we in the MASS office put on our programs is to “Celebrate, Educate, Activate and Advocate."

Some of our programs are pure celebrations of the culture, while others are more educational in nature so those who do not share in the culture we are honoring can learn to be better allies. We hope that through our program’s students feel activated to walk with confidence on this campus and fully express their culture. We also hope that students feel that as we talk about their cultures, we are advocating for a larger space for them on campus. 

These are not actions we can do alone; we need the entire CMU community to engage and support or the actions go nowhere.

This February, as we celebrate Black History Month, we have chosen to follow the theme established by the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, “Black Health and Wellness." 

While it would be easy to just focus on the obvious areas of physical health and mental health, we have decided to approach the month in a more holistic manner. We are following the Wellness Wheel model and will also have events focused on intellectual, emotional, occupational, environmental, fiscal, spiritual, physical and social wellness. 

The full list of events can be found on our website and all of our social media. 

Don’t let MLK Week be the only time you show passion for equity and inclusion, it’s more than just one week, it’s a continued commitment.

Wade Tomson is the assistant director of CMU's Office of Multicultural Academic Student Services.