Black History Month Through the Eyes of a Black Student

Laraya Billups, News Editor

Bridgewater, Va. – We are embarking on the month of February, a time of love according to every Hallmark card for Valentine’s Day. Unlike what Hallmark advertises, February is not only the month of hugs and kisses — it is also a time when we submerge ourselves into Black culture and celebrate the beauty of brown skin. 

As a Black student at Bridgewater College, I believe it is critical now more than ever to appreciate my culture, especially while I am enrolled in a predominantly white institution. 

Many people here will not understand the gravity of what this month means and the pride that swells in our hearts as Black students. I am always excited for this month to come around, but it is challenging to engage after the events of last year.

A calendar change from 2020 to 2021 does not negate the racial injustice that the Black community experienced. 

There are people who should have celebrated with us this month. People like Armaud Arbery, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and countless others should be here. These names have not been forgotten.

Their spirit resides in the eyes of my family and my brown-skinned friends, and I encourage my loved ones to keep moving forward in the midst of this oppression. This Black History Month coexists with our grief, as it usually does when we think about all we have endured as Black people. 

The first Black Pultizer Prize winner of poetry, Gwendolyn Brooks, once said, “When you use the term minority or minorities in reference to people, you’re telling them that they’re less than somebody else.”

What I want to ask of my Black Bridgewater College community is to honor these individuals by praising what hateful, bigoted people consider a deficiency. Your blackness has never been synonymous with inferiority. It is a sign of power, pride and perseverance. It is something to be valued and loved.

I ask you to celebrate and take care of yourself this month. Celebrate your wins, grieve the hardships then look forward to the cultural shift we are creating for the next generation of the Black community. When you look in the mirror, I hope you see your brown skin as beautiful and strong.

For those who want to become more informed or engaged in the advancement and protection of Black lives, I encourage you to get involved through any means that you can — whether that be through music, movies or books. This is not a fight solely for Black people.

Watch current movies to educate yourself, like “One Night in Miami” directed by Regina King about the meeting of four prominent civil rights leaders — available now on Amazon Prime. 

An upcoming film option is “Judas and the Black Messiah,” a film that chronicles the life and tragic death of Fred Hampton, a leader of the Black Panther Party. This film will be released on Feb. 12 on HBO Max. 

I hope that these films show that this fight is ongoing and that it has not ended with these civil rights leaders. 

If 2020 has taught us anything, it has taught us that everyone has the capability to be an activist. Let us present our activism as an unapologetic cry to celebrate and preserve Black lives not only in America, but around the world. 

I leave you with the words of the poem from the inaugural poet laureate, Amanda Gorman.

Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true:

That even as we grieved, we grew

That even as we hurt, we hoped

That even as we tired, we tried

That we’ll forever be tied together, victorious

Not because we will never again know defeat

but because we will never again sow division.”