In my public school experience, I was often asked, “Why do we need a Black History Month?” This is the first February in my career when I have not been asked this question, and yet I would like to offer a reminder of how all of us might use African American History Month to be reflective about our own relationships, to surface assumptions and biases about those who are different from us, and to learn something that will support collaborative relationships across racial differences.
Jonathan Pulphus, Class of 2012, visited me this week. We had an opportunity to sit down and chat about his studies at SLU, his experience at Crossroads, and his justice work in response to Ferguson. Jonathan is double majoring in African American Studies and Women and Gender Studies and plans on going to law school. We talked about intersectionality, the value of activities like Social Justice and GSA, and the value of affinity groups as students gain insight into their personal identities and their identities as Crossroadians. Jonathan is participating in a class called Intergroup Dialogue: Black Male Identity, and our conversation reminded me of this Bayard Rustin quote: “It is very important to have a sense of racial identity because I believe it is quite impossible for people to struggle creatively if they do not truly believe in themselves.”
I am impressed by Jonathan’s reflective nature, and I am grateful that he and I were able to spend an hour together. I am hopeful that Jonathan will return and share some of what he learns from his intergroup dialogue experience with our faculty and with our students. Perhaps in this way we will continue to celebrate African American History Month on March 1st and beyond.
With great expectations,