Black History Month celebrates the Civil Rights Movement and the continuation of social change


Ayanna Wyatt poses with her written dream for the continued social justice of the country and world.

Angela Mammel, Entertainment Editor

Since the idea of Black History Month’s beginning in 1976, every February has marked a new opportunity to celebrate and appreciate both the heroes who fought for equality during the civil rights movement and those who are still pushing for change today. The month is celebrated through Rochester’s schools and the local library, but some students believe that discrimination still exists, leading to the month being overlooked at points.

“I think that black history month is very important because people need to understand and accept other cultures,” sophomore Sariah Oglesby said. “It’s great that this month exists so people can appreciate African American culture, but I feel like it’s not given enough attention sometimes.”

Rochester social activist Mrs. Joanna VanRaapHorst is one of the many people ensuring that the ideas of equality and acceptance are continually preached. Heading up a think tank about social injustice here in Rochester, she believes that discrimination must come to an end at once and supports many other groups with a similar mission.

“Because of the past discrimination against African Americans as well as the current discrimination that still exists, we have to keep the dialogue constant,” Mrs. VanRaaphorst said. “I personally have experienced discrimination, and didn’t like it then, so therefore do not wish that any other group, be it an ethnic or religious minority, or our LBGT community. I also think the black lives matter groups, as well as others who fight for proper recognition, are vitally important.”

Rochester Hills Youth Council representative and RHS sophomore Ramona Johnson agrees that inequality should be put to an end, and thinks that black history month is very important and that the ways it is celebrated in some history classes are very impactful.

“I think the month as a whole is very important, especially in Rochester Community schools, because a lot of the history classes we teach are very Anglo-centric and every other month is ‘White History Month,’” Johnson said. “So it’s not only good to mix it up every once and awhile, but to talk about an issue that’s super important by doing that is really impactful.”

Supporting people who are pushing for an end to further inequality today, Johnson is inspired by social activists in this area but believes that there is a specific way to go about helping put such this practice to an end.

“I don’t think people realize inequality is still happening today because it’s much more under the radar than before, however it’s still inequality and it needs to be dealt with,” Johnson said. “I’m really inspired by the people that advocate for equality, but they need to do so in a way that makes them reasonable and approachable otherwise people will get defensive and they won’t accomplish much.”

Mrs. VanRaaphorst also believes that activism against discrimination needs to be handled gently, and she got the idea of starting a think tank to promote equality when she met friendly people in Rochester through her campaign for political office.

“As I went door to door (while running for office), I met a wonderful group of neighbors from all walks of life,” Mrs. VanRaaphorst said. “It took me awhile to realize that Rochester, although it is a wonderful area, had quite a ways to go in providing a more nurturing environment for its diverse residents, but change comes by people speaking up for everyone’s rights. ”

Believing that there is social injustice still occurring in today’s world, Oglesby feels that if victims could have conversations with those who discriminate against them, it would give them new perspectives and possibly change their ways.

“There’s definitely discrimination that’s still happening right now,” Oglesby said. “If we could sit down and talk to the people who don’t understand the beliefs of other cultures still today, just to prove to them that we’re people and that we’re just like them, that’d be really important to do.”

Martin Luther King Jr. inspires Johnson as he was one of the great heroes of the civil rights movement. She believes that his ideas can be translated to today’s world to help end this further violence.

“MLKJ was an incredible influence and a great leader because his whole message of peace and inclusion inspired Ghandi and is something that can still be translated to today,” Johnson said.”If we could take his advice and push for peace more often, even in our daily lives and arguments, that’d be much better than making violence be our first reaction to everything.”

Holding the cause of putting an end to inequality close to her heart, Mrs. VanRaaphorst urges young people to look up to MLKJ and other heroes of the civil rights movement; and to take every opportunity they can to stand up for minority groups and continue the push for change.

“My advice to the youth is to take inspiration from the (heroes of the equal rights movement) and the countless others who stand up for human rights,” Mrs. VanRaaphorst said. “Once you get started, it gets easier to do. Everyone needs to know they are just as important as everyone else.”