Students share the importance of Black History Month, health and wellness

February is Black History Month, which is celebrated and recognized in different ways by black students at Ohio University. Likewise, the personal meaning of the month for the students cannot be limited to an explanation.

What Black History Month means to black students can be defined by their experiences and backgrounds. For Joi Foy, who attended a mostly white middle and high school, Black Achievement Month in the United States is about celebrating representation.

“I think it’s really important to see people like you,” said Foy, a freshman studying journalism. “So as part of Black History Month, we get to see people who look like us and also celebrate those people for the things and the marks they made for us. They paved the way for us to do the things we are doing today.”

Black History Month was originally created as a week in 1926 by Carter G. Woodson, founder of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, or ASALH. Woodson founded ASALH because he recognized the need for a platform dedicated to exploring the deep and rich history of Black people in the United States. according to the organization’s website.

According to ASALH, Woodson was the son of parents who were enslaved and “understood the importance of a proper education in striving to secure the divine right of liberty and to make the best of it.” Woodson received higher education and was the second African American to earn a doctorate. at Harvard University.

Other students recognize the rich history of Black History Month, like Chelsea Tano, who notes that Black History Month means more to her now than it did two years ago. When Tano, a sophomore in psychology, began taking more African American studies classes for her minor, she began learning more about African history in the United States and Africa. It was this notoriety that made Black History Month more important to her. However, Tano wishes the month devoted to black history was longer.

According to ASALH, a week in February was deliberately chosen by Woodson because the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass fit into the same week. In 1976, the week was expanded into a festival month. Since the values ​​of celebrating Black history remained the same throughout the month-long expansion, the annual theme component also remained the same.

Each year, a theme corresponds with Black History Month to showcase specific achievements in different areas of life. According to ASALH, the theme for 2022 is health and wellness. This theme celebrates the progress made by black scholars and physicians in western medicine along with other forms of medicine and healing within the African diaspora, such as midwives.

Midwives are healthcare providers who support and care for pregnant women before, during and after childbirth, as described in the National Museum of African American History and Culture in recognizing obstetricians during this year’s Black History Month.

The museum noted that while midwives have a strong presence today, their history stretches back centuries. During the Middle Passage, the phase of the Atlantean slave trade, when millions of Africans were forcibly expelled and brought to America, midwives brought their knowledge and trained others as the primary source of childbirth care across the country.

When hospital births outnumbered home births in the 1940s, the transition encountered high maternal mortality rates, and midwives were asked by state governments to keep health records, according to the museum’s website. But the museum explained that too Black women in the US are still three times more likely to die in pregnancy than white womenimplying a need for obstetricians to avoid high rates of pregnancy mortality among blacks.

the ASALH, talking about this year’s theme, said while some steps have been taken in the medical field to help pregnant black women have safe births, barriers remain due to racism. This also applies to other areas of health and well-being such as mental health.

Christopher Lawrence-White, a junior studying mechanical engineering and a former employee for The post, said certain stereotypes about black people make it difficult for them to seek out mental health resources. For example, the stereotype that black women are always confident and strong, often known as the “superwoman stereotype,” is pernicious, Lawrence-White said.

He said the stereotype may seem positive, but it takes away the humanity from black women. The superwoman stereotype can put pressure on black women to always be the providers for themselves and refuse the help of others, Lawrence-White said.

“It can be very damaging and is reflected in a lot of people being depressed and blaming themselves,” Lawrence-White said. “Through many different avenues, it connects to the importance of mental health and reaching out to therapists or people you can talk to.”

Another issue Lawrence-White and Foy see is the lack of discussion about mental health with others who are also black. Foy thinks this year’s theme of health and wellness can potentially raise awareness of this lack of attention.

“Black mental health is something that’s not talked about a lot in our community, or even, just more broadly, around the world,” Foy said. “So to be able to sit down and say, ‘That needs to be highlighted. This is something we need to focus on more individually as a community, but also understand that when our non-Black peers are going through these things, black people are doing it too.

There are opportunities for non-Black people to get more involved during Black History Month, and Lawrence-White believes one thing people can do is actively listen to Black and other marginalized groups sharing their experiences , try to educate yourself or just exist.

Black student-led organizations at OU host health and wellness events throughout the month. Ebony Minds, an on-campus organization run by Black women, hosts a line dancing event with the Athens Black Contemporary Dancers.

The ASALH and Health and Wellness theme promotes the balance between mental health and physical health, which includes dancing. Everyone is welcome to learn and learn line dances. The event will take place on Tuesday at 6 p.m. in the Multicultural Center, room 219.

Black History Month and its related themes each year share different lessons about the experiences and achievements of Black people in the United States and their history. Its meaning for people varies, and for Tano the meaning of the month is difficult to describe.

“I’m so passionate about it,” Tano said. “I can’t even put it into words.”

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