Defining Black History Month

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by August Linton

To Zephie Harvey, Black History Month is an acknowledgment of the depth and value of Black heritage and culture.

“Black History month means looking back at my heritage and knowing where we came from,” said Harvey.

Photo by Abraham Navarro | Cal Poly Humboldt student Zephie Harvey

However, they also say that it should serve as a reminder of the inequities that Black people still face. Black History Month is also about the history being made right now. Harvey points out that there are many areas in which Black people have only recently been allowed to exist.

“It’s 2022 and we’re still having firsts for things,” they said.

Like many people of color and especially Black people living in Humboldt County, Harvey felt a bit isolated before finding community resources like the Umoja Center.

“I’m from an area that’s very heavily populated with Black people so it’s hard finding that community here,” Harvey said.

Harvey is a dance major here at CPH, and will be performing in the “Evening of Dance” show later this semester.

To Nicole Rahman-Garnier, Black History Month means celebrating the accomplishments of Black people.

Photo by Abraham Navarro | Cal Poly Humboldt graduate student Nicole Rahman-Garnier

“In the last couple of years, that script has kind of flipped and we’ve been able to more celebrate the triumphs rather than focus on the tribulations that we’ve faced,” Rahman-Garnier said. “It’s a little more of a positive notation of what it means to be Black, what things that we’ve done.”

As for her experience in Humboldt, Rahman-Garnier says that becoming a student has connected her to the Black community here. “It’s changed over time, when I first moved here it was hard to find a place,” she said.

“It’s weird being [a Black person] in the sciences because that’s not something that you see a lot here. That’s something that I’m kind of working on changing right now too, not only for the campus culture but for Humboldt culture in general,” said Rahman-Garnier.

Rahman-Garnier is a grad student at CPH studying the morphology of fish olfactory organs.

Gloria Thompson and Joi Mehn table in the Quad for CPH’s Umoja Center for Pan African Student Excellence.

To Mehn, Black History Month means simply “celebrating Black people.”

The events that the center is holding over the course of this month represent different facets of that celebration. Among others, these include an event highlighting Black achievements in STEM, a Black history expo, an African diaspora celebration, and regular “Kuumba: Dance for Creativity” classes every Saturday.

Photo by Abraham Navarro | Cal Poly Humboldt student Gloria Thompson

Everyone is welcome and encouraged to attend.

“Not holding a Pan African identity does not disqualify anyone from participation in any events or programs, we value cultural exchange and invite people from other backgrounds to ground with us,” said the Center’s website.

Thompson said that her experience being Black in Humboldt has been “Interesting, but I’ve been finding my people, and that connection is really important.”

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