Documentary advocates for Black History Month expansion

Brianna Parsons, Reporter

Members of the Wayne State College community gathered at Gardner Hall Wednesday, Feb. 13, to view the documentary film, “More than a Month.” The 2012 film, directed by Shukree Tilghman, follows Tilghman as he attempts a campaign to end Black History Month due to his belief that the political, social and cultural contributions of African Americans should not be limited to a month-long celebration.

“I think the general idea behind the film’s director is to make Black History Month not just a month, but something that people think of to celebrate the whole year,” said Multicultural Center graduate assistant Ellie Thuy Tran. 

Isaiah Simms, a student organizer for the Multicultural Center, believes that everyone has a goal they want to accomplish.

“I have talked to a lot of black students on campus and they do not feel represented at all,” Simms said. “We do not have Jim Crow laws anymore, so we are not confined to certain areas on campus, but there is a feeling that is there, that we are not overall in it together.”

WSC students are working toward a greater recognition and appreciation for campus diversity, according to Jeremiah Woods, the Black Student Association treasurer. Woods, however, acknowledged it will take time for change to happen.

“There are only one or two black persons of color represented,” Simms said. “It is hard to believe that our school is promoting inclusion, but you see 10-15 percent of people of color and there is only two percent representation on any media sites.”

Simms chose the film, “More than a Month” as a tool to educate the campus about societal issues many people in Wayne may not otherwise think about.

“I had a list of movies that I was playing with for the MLK event because I was thinking of new innovative ways to reeducate ourselves about racial issues and our leaders, and shed a light on everything that went on,” Simms said. “We have been accustomed to focusing on the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech or the march that happened, but nobody ever talks about how MLK got stabbed by a woman because she thought he conspired with some evilness to come up with this civil rights plan.”

“There are things in history that have been retaught to us in a way that we believe it, once you get told a lie so many times, you end up believing that sometimes.”

Although Black History Month encourages people to explore alternative histories beyond the narrowly codified history presented in canonized textbooks, the focus on the past does little to address contemporary inequality.

“I have lived with this motto my whole life, ‘It has always been more than just a month,’ because I am black twenty-four-seven,” Simms said. “Socially, we are under the impression that we are equal because we have symbolic things such as a Martin Luther King Boulevard, or a school named after a prominent black figure. We are polite to each other and that is a step, but it is going to take a lot of historical knowledge to change.”

Learning about the long historical struggle for equality forged by African Americans demonstrates the progress made by previous generations, but also points to changes not yet achieved.

“We are still fighting for equality, but I can’t sit here and say we have not made progress because we have, and I am grateful for that,” Woods said. “Desegregating our minds will take time, because right now we are still in a time period where we still have people who lived in those times of segregation. Now we are in a time period where most of my generation accept people for who they are.”

Woods understands that eradicating racism and institutionalized inequality will take time, but he wants to play a part in bringing about necessary social change.

“By putting the information in the forefront of people’s minds, I think we can make some moves now to make sure it does not end up being a part of society anymore,” Woods said. “I might die before I really see change, but at least my children or grandchildren will live in a society where everyone around the world can live without second thought, without that underlining and without that silver lining.”