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Black History Appreciation

Black Leaders

Black Leaders

Casey Cumberland

Casey Cumberland

Black Leaders

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Jay-Z said, “Identity is a prison you can never escape, but the way to redeem your past is not to run from it, but to try to understand, and use it as a foundation to grow.” These heavily influential words are nothing short of the truth. People of color have had to struggle through the turmoil since 1619, when slavery made its way to North America. This has led the black community to become stronger in almost every essence. An exceptional number of black leaders have dedicated their lives to not only the African American community, but to everyone who can become easy targets for discrimination. A couple people who decided to take a stand against discrimination include: Thurgood Marshall, John Lewis, Rosa Parks and the list goes on. One of the biggest black movements came with the formation of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) in 1909. The group works as a representative for the African American community, and they help to voice any conflicts or concerns the community may have. Today conflicts have gotten better for black people but, there are still an extensive amount of challenges that people of color still face in our society.

African American influence on the country

Leaders who have helped the black community are also playing a big role in the advancement of freedoms for African Americans. Thurgood Marshall was a supreme court justice and a civil rights activist, and played a huge role in the NAACP as a lawyer. According to, Marshall said, “He guided the litigation that destroyed the legal underpinnings of Jim Crow segregation.” This is an extremely pivotal point made in African American history.

Khaleb Charles
A leader a day. Everyday of the calendar marks an inspirational black leader to research for that day.

Medgar Evers was another influential NAACP leader who changed the course of history and helped mold today’s society. He fought for giving blacks the right to vote in the republican party. said, “As state field secretary, Evers recruited members throughout Mississippi and organized voter-registration efforts, demonstrations, and economic boycotts of white-owned companies that practiced discrimination.” 

There are modern role models that are looked up to in everyday life. Visionary, Jaden Smith, uses his notoriety to promote new ideas. For example, “Just water” is a water brand that revolutionizes water and even the way the water is packaged. The bottle is carbon based, meaning that it’s a mostly plant-based bottle. This innovative design will help to revitalize the environment, and though that may not be exclusively about the black community, it’s still about empowering those to do something great.

Jay-Z and Kanye West are a couple of musical artists in the African American community that have changed the music game. They also do stuff for their community and have become extremely successful. Hence, a lot of people look up to them. Kanye has opened the black community to making music that go beyond rap and hip hop, and he also finds ways to combine different genres. He owns his own clothing brand, “Yeezy”, and he is well known for it. He uses the recognition and platform that he has obtained to spread his messages.

Groups that have affected society

Black Lives Matter is a modern group that a lot of young Americans look up to. They are similar to the NAACP in the respects that they fight for equal rights using defensive tactics like hiring lawyers. They are also like the black panthers because at times they take the offensive on unfair situations. said, “The Panthers practiced militant self-defense of minority communities against the U.S. government, and fought to establish revolutionary socialism through mass organizing and community-based programs.” They are a group that essentially fights for what they believe in, and they influence the African American communities.

When role models receive criticism they can lead others to stand up and state their own issues. Voices like musician Kanye West will speak out or protest and say things like, “George Bush doesn’t care about black people.” Kanye had said this in light of hurricane Katrina that hit New Orleans. He felt as though black people were being portrayed unfairly by the media and felt that President George Bush at the time was not doing enough for the community. Others take an action route. According to the NY Times, Colin Kaepernick said, “The unique gesture that embodied a cry against, primarily, the murder by the police of unarmed black citizens,” is a prime example of an action-based protest and they are important people in today’s society. 

OHS response

A few students of color at the OHS have spoken their mind about black history month and how it made them feel. What drives them to do the best they can in life and who they look up to for role models. When asked who has influenced him, senior Terrell Conner said, “As a student at OHS, Rosa Parks has taught me to never back down to any situation.” History classes have helped shed light on a few names that came to light when thinking about black history. Names that come to mind are: Harriet Tubman, the creator of the underground railroad, Rosa Parks, a civil rights activist, and George Washington Carver, a peanut farmer and inventor. Each fought for a cause far bigger than themselves.

As a student at OHS, Rosa Parks has taught me to never back down to any situation”

— Terrell Conner

The Underground Railroad allowed freedom from slavery, Rosa Parks did not only stand up for herself on a bus, but she also stood up for women who had been sexually assaulted, and Carver saved the farms in the south by planting peanut plants to revive the soil that would save crops. Some students believe that these historical figures don’t get nearly as much credit as they deserve. Junior Austin Ress said, “African American people are being given credit but not enough credit for their accomplishments.” Students say that these icons that they look up to empower them to be better. Senior Said Abdullahi said, “I’m glad black people are getting the recognition they deserve. Everything I do is for the culture.” It’s important that “the culture” gets its due respect.

The OHS is not exactly the most diverse place. Five percent of the 1500 students are black and of that 5% majority are kids from out of the country. This means that black history isn’t a priority in the school. There are not many black role models or even teachers to help guide the students in the building. That is why a month of recognition for the leaders of the past and present are important. It will help create the role models of the future.

The past is important. It shapes the future and affects the present. The hardships that people of color have faced have truly shaped and molded the present and will continue to evolve the future. Black leaders will continue to arise and impact this world in many ways. In the meantime one can choose to celebrate by participating in events and educating themselves everyday and honor those who have fought for their rights.

For more information on events regarding Black History Month in Minnesota visit the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder Black History Month Calendar.

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