Some CSUN professors believe one month dedicated to Black History just isn’t enough.
“It shouldn’t be limited to one month of the year because it should be an integral part of everybody’s history,” said Rosentene Purnell, who teaches literature in the Pan African Studies Department at CSUN.
Purnell said she still believes, however, African-Americans should celebrate their history during Black History Month.
In December, Academy Award-winner Morgan Freeman called Black History Month ridiculous in an interview with the CBS news show “60 Minutes” because he said he was offended that the history of black Americans is confined to one month.
Purnell said Freeman’s way of looking at the situation is skewed.
“Sure it should be a part of everyday history and American history, but that’s not the case,” Purnell said. “Until it is, we should set aside a time to do the best we can to compensate for that void.”
Purnell said many of her students know nothing about black history except that some blacks once were slaves and “that’s not nearly the whole story.”
She added there isn’t enough black history being taught at the present time, either in high schools or college.
“If it were not for black studies I’m sure very little would be taught,” Purnell said.
Purnell said black history is part of everyone’s history, adding that it would be a good idea to have a requirement that all students must take at least one PAS class before graduating.
Kambon Obayani, part-time Pan African studies professor, said he supports the idea of Black History Month. He added, however, that he would still like to see black history recognized during more than the shortest month of the year.
“If we are incorporated into American history it wouldn’t be such a phenomenon,” Obayani said. “Then people would know the significance of it.”
Obayani said Black History Month could be seen as a step in the right direction for black history to be completely incorporated into American history.
“In 41 years to have (Black History Month) is something within itself,” Obayani said. “However, what is ideal is that it would be more, but everything has to happen within time.”
Obayani said not celebrating Black History Month as a means of protest to it hardly being mentioned throughout the rest of the year does not solve anything, because even one month means something, especially to the youth.
He said he agrees with Freeman’s statement that the concept of Black History Month is ridiculous, but noted again that it has not been that long since this country was segregated, so the situation has to be put in its historical context.
“It’s absurd that it should be confined to one month?but realistically, this is the United States and we are only 41 years away from segregation,” Obayani said.
He said delegating one month only to black history implies that it is a special entity and secludes black history from the rest of U.S. history.
He said this is problematic.
“It continues to make us marginalized and being on the periphery of society as opposed to an integral part of society,” he said.
Obayani said to address black history without marginalizing it, U.S. history has to be reformatted, textbooks must be re-written and orientation classes should be created to teach black history.
He said he is hopeful that students will study black history and want to make a change.
“A lot of younger people who are coming up and learning their history want to go into elementary schools, and they are going to teach (the kids),” Obayani said.
Johan Mengesha can be reached at email@example.com.