Feb. 1 marks the beginning of Black History Month, a time to recognize and celebrate the many contributions and accomplishments African Americans have made in the scope of American history.
Race relations in the United States have progressed and improved significantly in the last century and there are certain historical figures that the U.S. has to thank for that achievement.
Dr. Jeff Barnes, dean of academic services, reflected on perhaps one of the most influential figures in modern history, Martin Luther King Jr.
“King is absolutely instrumental,” Barnes said.
King, among many other courageous African Americans in U.S. history, made a way for future African American leaders.
“The mere fact that we have [an African-American president today] is a true testament to how far we’ve come in a relatively short amount of time,” Barnes said. “Especially given how tragically set back we were.”
Barnes said reflecting on the past and how the nation has progressed in terms of race relations has given Americans a vision for the future.
“We need to be able to honor our past and allow the stories of the past to be compasses for where we need to go and what we need to do in the future,” Barnes said.
Rebecca Bernard, senior sociology major, has honored her heritage and modern history in her own way.
She was involved in Black Student Union when she attended Riverside Poly High School, and the club raised awareness about black history and hosted events such as a Black History Month Assembly.
“My senior year, I was asked to play a short part in the assembly: the role of Harriet Tubman,” Bernard said. “It was awesome being a part of the assembly in raising awareness of various influential black people and celebrating their accomplishments.”
More recently, Bernard attended Riverside’s Black History Month Parade to celebrate.
“Last year, my sister was in [the parade],” Bernard said. “So my mother and I watched that and various other performances downtown.”
This year, Riverside held its 35th Annual Black History Parade & Expo Feb. 8, where it began near the Riverside City College campus at the Magnolia and Terracina intersection.
Black History Month is a time to remind Americans of the past and many have made the effort to celebrate.