Black History Month was not always celebrated for a whole month. In fact, the celebration originated as Negro History Week in 1926 by Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of African American Life and History.
Woodson is known as the “father of Black History Month,” and strived to bring awareness to African American history. It was a way to celebrate and honor the accomplishments of African Americans throughout history.
In 1926, Negro History Week began in February. Woodson selected the month of February because the birthdays of President Abraham Lincoln and African American abolitionist Frederick Douglass were celebrated.
Black History Month was not observed until 1976, when President Gerald Ford pronounced it as a national observance during his speech on Feb. 10, 1976.
“We can seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history,” Ford said.
Since then, Black History Month has expanded into schools from education to diversity. That is the case for student-athletes at The Beach.
Many students are celebrating Black History Month in their own way. Women’s basketball player Ma’Qhi Berry is one of many students honoring Black history.
Aside from women’s basketball currently ranking No. 2 in the Big West Conference, Berry has a lot to celebrate.
“A lot of athletes wear shirts of empowerment for African Americans throughout the month,” Berry said. “Coach gives insight and tells us inspiring quotes before games.”
Berry uses her voice and tries to educate others about Black history.
“Educating others on our troubles and tribulations is important,” Berry said.
Further, Berry said that appreciating each other is something she tries to do on and off the court. As an athlete of color, Berry said it reflects the way she plays basketball.
“Having such a diverse team like we do and seeing people that look like me makes me more comfortable,” she said.
Head coach Jeff Cammon said that he encourages his players “to partake and share who we are” and places importance on players knowing who they are.
“I took the team to learn about African American history at the Smithsonian Museum while we were in Washington D.C.,” Cammon said.
Cammon, who attended a Historically Black College (HBCU), said that he was the first person in his family to get a master’s degree. Cammon shared that he also faced racial barriers even while attending the HBCU.
“I learned how to face it,” Cammon said. “Recognize it, have faith in God, push yourself to goals, and do not let that stop you by having a growth mindset.”
Both Berry and Cammon mentioned that even though the campus is diverse in many ways, there are ways to improve. They shared that the school should look into more job opportunities for people of color in athletics because there is a lack of African American staff and trainers.
“We can improve,” Cammon said. “The athletic director is trying to hire more people of color.”
Athletic director Andy Fee also emphasized the importance of hiring people of color in the athletic department.
“We know we can be better and know we can always strive for more,” Fee said. “I am optimistic we will continue to put people of color into the staff here. We have been working with a great consultant who is a minority-led business that focuses on recruitment and the workplace.”
Further, Fee believes that it is important to get student-athletes involved in the campus community.
Fee said that it is important for him to educate himself along with the athletics program, and that the best way to support students is to listen to them.
“For myself and the department, it is a lot of education,” Fee said. “It is a lot of listening, but also being an ally.”