African Ancestry Month Celebrates Black Leaders

The month of February is designated to celebrate memorable African ancestors who have raised the bar in fighting for equality and standing up for what they believe in.

One of the most remembered inspirational leaders, Rosa Parks, made a point by not giving up her seat in the front of the bus during the 1950s in Alabama. Parks would have been 100 years old this month, making it decades since Americans first used her as a historical figure in the civil rights movement.
Ramapo students will be visiting the Rosa Parks High School located in Paterson, which bears her name in honor of African ancestry celebration. Students will be advised on the importance and value of attending college.

"February is a time to recognize and celebrate the culture and heritage of African ancestry like never before, by enhancing your sense of community and reconnecting with the African culture," said African Ancestry Month Coordinator Naima Ricks.

The Diversity Action Committee also held the Seventh Annual Diversity Convocation, featuring "New York Daily News" columnist Juan Gonzalez.

Since 1926, the United States has been honoring Black History Month since Carter Wilson founded "Black History Week" in the second week of February. Kent State University was the first to acknowledge and celebrate African-American history in 1970. Since then it has been commenced as an acknowledged, celebratory month in the U.S.

This month recognizes heroic icons such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Harriet Tubman. These men and women are known for fighting for their rights as human beings, as an equal party without judgment of their skin color.

"I find this month overall necessary because it is undervalued and unappreciated during the rest of the year," said Stephanie Hernandez, graduate assistant for Equality and Diversity at Ramapo. "Celebrating African Ancestry Month and building bridges to understand is something every college should endure."

A main theme that resonates in the celebration of African Ancestry Month is, "education, empowerment and awareness." The events held at Ramapo allow students to migrate toward a better, more positive understanding of different ethnicities, cultures and most of all themselves, organizers said.

"I like to think of heritage months like African Ancestry as a special time of the year to celebrate a group, just like how birthdays are a time to celebrate individuals. It's not the only time of the year it's important to learn about African Ancestry, but it is a special time to highlight the history, the culture and the people who inspire us," said Kat McGee, coordinator of the Women's Center. "The staff in the Women's Center is excited to be a part of planning African Ancestry Month because celebrating diverse perspectives is one way we advocate for social justice on campus."

Hernandez is looking forward to attending the events this month.

"My favorite event is the 'Women of Distinction' event because it is the perfect outlet to empowerment, so I'm excited for the momentum that these African-American women can bring and divert throughout the campus," Hernandez said.

This month familiarizes students with the unfamiliar and empowers them to be who they are.

"These events are beneficial for college students by indulging them in the history of diaspora which many minorities have faced throughout the years," Ricks said.

As King Jr. once said, "If you can't fly, run. If you can't run, walk. If you can't walk, crawl. But by all means, keep moving."