When the calendar turns to February, the smell of baked macaroni and cheese and smothered fried chicken disperse across Texas State’s soul food celebration. Prominent black figures dust cobwebs off their phones and calendars to accept invitations to speak at public events, and everyone is searching for a Martin Luther King Jr. quote that looks good on a poster.
Black History cannot be squeezed into just a month. February is over, but Black History continues to unfold at Texas State, and it is all of our duty to acknowledge it.
Black contributions to the university are monumental, as seen with the implementation of the African American studies minor this school year.
It is an absolute disgrace to black students that surrounding institutions, including The University of Texas, which has fewer black students on its campus, provided education in black studies, history and people long before Texas State—and have since the 70s.
It was meaningful actions from organizations like the Pan-African Action Committee and students like Tafari Robertson and Nahja Marshall that demanded more.
They wrote about it. When a sit-in was taking place calling for the impeachment of former Student Government President Connor Clegg, the black studies minor was always part of negotiations. They were willing to get arrested for it.
In the end, they got the job done. It was black student action that took care of the business that should have been handled decades prior, and it did not stop there.
It was the first black Student Government President Corey Benbow who implemented a Diversity Week at Texas State in 2019—a week purposed to celebrate minority students and make them feel at home on campus.
The week brought diverse groups like Step Afrika!, a black dance group that uses stepping, a dance routine popular in black communities, to educate and give insight into black culture.
It also gave a platform to The Asia Project, a duo that performs emotional spoken word poetry with an acoustic musical ambiance.
It is celebrations like Diversity Week that students taking part in will remember for years to come. Moreover, it shows students of color that their university is interested in minority culture; it allows them and the things they love to feel welcome in a space that has forever been dominated by white people.
Diversity should be celebrated and recognized year round, and just like the Pan-African Action Committee, Benbow helped our university take a step in the right direction. A black man made that happen and it can never be erased.
The Star has also benefited from black contributions.
Our first black Editor-in-Chief Carrington J. Tatum, helped us implement a foundation that we can now build on for years to come. In an industry where black people are underrepresented, his presence gave us insight into how much journalism can benefit from black voices.
Tatum spent time actively recruiting students of color and put them in positions to move up in leadership. He advocated for students of color. He lectured and encouraged discussions about race, diversity and inclusion in our newsroom and how we cover our community.
Even after his tenure at The Star, he continues to serve as a mentor, advocate and leader for our organization.
Texas State is indebted to its black students, faculty and administration. The way it pays off that debt is through education in and out of the classroom.
Those of us at Texas State have to be willing to learn about one another. Although there is nothing that could ever substitute first-person perspective, there is nothing wrong with a good faith effort toward trying to understand.
That is how we move forward; that is how we embark on change like the Pan-African Action Committee, Benbow and Tatum implemented. They are not finished and neither are we.
February is over, but Black History is forever. It is all of our responsibility to ensure that it does not go unnoticed.