Editorial: Black History Month: learning true history through culture
By Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins
February is Black History Month, which was first recognized in 1926 when Dr. Carter G.
Woodson, an African-American historian and educator, established Negro History Week. President Gerald Ford extended the celebration to a monthlong event in 1976, asking Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”
Today, Black History Month is observed all over America, as schools, churches and communities honor the countless contributions that African-Americans have made to our society.
The theme for this year is “A Century of Black Life, History and Culture.”
This year’s theme invites us to learn about and celebrate the lives and achievements of African-Americans past and present. It also awakens our collective social conscience to the importance of giving our children a complete and accurate record of their country’s history.
Today’s school children are fortunate to be learning a more comprehensive record of American history. The stories of African-American heroes like Crispus Attucks, the first American to be gunned down in the Revolutionary War, George Washington Carver who revolutionized the agricultural economy of the South, and Jackie Robinson whose contributions to the sport of baseball began the modern civil rights movement are an important part of our collective history which deserves recognition.
While previous generations were taught only part of our nation’s history, today’s students see a more complete picture, one that includes learning about the many African-Americans whose lives have helped shape American history. And while textbooks give us a record of historical events, art offers a more personal account of history and culture. Literature, theater and film allow audiences to step into someone else’s shoes — to see a snapshot of life as others experience it. That is why San Diego offers a wide variety of cultural events for Black History Month.
The San Diego African-American Advisory Council has teamed up with San Diego Urban Warriors to celebrate Black History Month with three days of theater, art, food and educational workshops highlighting Black history and culture. KuumbaFest, named after the Swahili word for creativity, runs Feb. 13 – 15 at the San Diego Repertory Theatre in Horton Plaza.
UC San Diego is also doing its part to tell the multicultural history of America. With a celebration running from Jan. 25 to March 7, UCSD has assembled a program which brings together artists, musicians, historians, lecturers and filmmakers to celebrate the historical and artistic contributions that African-Americans have made to American culture. UCSD’s Black History Month festival also offers a modern perspective on black culture with receptions for the black queer community and other cross-cultural communities.
To move forward, we need to understand the past as it truly was. If America has always been racially and ethnically diverse, the nation has not always realized its multicultural history. And while we work to bring it out in the open today, there are others who are looking to downplay the contributions of all Americans. We must not let that happen. Let’s remember that black history and culture is American history and culture.
—Speaker Atkins proudly represents the people of coastal San Diego, from Imperial Beach, along the Mexican border, north to Solana Beach, and most of central San Diego. She previously served eight years on the San Diego City Council, and stepped in as acting mayor in 2005 after the resignation of the mayor. Atkins lives in the South Park/Golden Hill community of San Diego with her spouse Jennifer LeSar and their dogs, Haley and Joey.
University Heights library
I am sympathetic with the efforts of the University Heights community, which is trying to “transform the historic Normal School Teachers Training Annex into a community center and replacement library.” [see “Lack of funding plagues UH library plans” Vol. 6 issue 3]
Normal Heights shares some library history with University Heights. In 1927, our first city library was a “used” building that had been the University Heights branch library located on the grounds of the old Garfield Elementary School between Louisiana and Mississippi streets on El Cajon Boulevard. When the new UH branch opened, this abandoned library building was moved to 3491 School St. at Mansfield in Normal Heights where it remained until late 1953 when it was closed, housed temporarily at 3435 Adams Ave., and consolidated with the Kensington Library on April 1, 1954.
For the record, Normal Heights has never had its own brand new, built-from-the-ground-up library. Also, for the record, I am on the board of the Normal Heights Community Planning Group, but this letter is based on my own research and does not reflect the views of the NHCPG.
Suzanne Ledeboer (via email)
I am very supportive of the adaptive reuse of the Normal School Teachers Training Annex as a community center and library, however your article mentioned that one of the reasons for the need was the scrapping of a plan to build a new library in North Park. That is not true, the plans for a new library in North park are still alive and the Greater North Park Planning Group is planning to add it to their CIP list.
North Park resident, former member of the North Park Library Task Force and former chair of the Greater North Park Planning Group.
Editor’s note: An article on North Park’s library plans is in the works.
Fall year-round in University Heights
University Heights is such a wonderful place to live. I tripped and fell hard head first onto the pavement on Jan. 29 at Park Boulevard and Adams Avenue. I want to publicly acknowledge the five or six good Samaritans who immediately came to my assistance. I don’t think my hands and knees had stopped sliding across the cement before total strangers were there to ask me how hurt I was and how they could help. Thank you for caring and for your help. It’s comforting to live in a neighborhood where we care about one another. University Heights is a wonderful place to live or, if you must, to trip and fall.