“I still see a struggle on this campus”
In February 1976, when the first Black History Month was celebrated, President Ford encouraged Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”
Today, organizations such as Black Lives Matter fight for the continuation of this honor. This year they created a new campaign around February’s commemoration, declaring the month Black Futures Month.
“We are committed to remembering, celebrating, and learning from our history, but also imagining our future,” said Tanya Lucia Bernard, arts and culture director for Black Lives Matter. “Black people are more than what happened to us.”
Each day of February, the organization released an original piece of commissioned art alongside an article about Black rights in the United States. Articles included titles such as “Liberating Black Lives Through Reproductive Justice” and “Black Trans Lives Matter.”
“Black Futures Month is the visual representation of our lived experiences,” said Opal Tometi, co-founder of Black Lives Matter. “It is directly connected to the fight to end state-sanctioned violence against Black people and is a visual manifestation of what Black liberation looks like.”
The new initiative was received positively, particularly by Isaac Berko, junior at Suffolk University and co-vice president of the Black Students Union. While he says Black History Month allows him to celebrate what ancestors did for Blacks to get where they are today, he likes that Black Futures Month leaves space to conquer the struggles of today.
“I think that Black Futures Month is such an awesome initiative,” said Berko. “I believe the initiative is to bring people together to bring people to understand the troubles that are going on.”
A large portion of the troubles Berko spoke of is the police violence towards Black people seen fairly frequently across the country in recent years. Some acts of violence have resulted in protests, such as in Ferguson, Missouri. Berko suggested police officers go through training on how to work with people of color, but he acknowledged that there’s a lot of work to be done, as well as a lot of ignorance to overcome – particularly on the Suffolk campus.
“There’s blacks being shot every day. And every day it affects people’s lives no matter what. And it affects my life when a black person is shot or killed by the police and the police gets off scot-free,” said Berko.
Berko called upon administrators to acknowledge the racial issues of our time by sending out emails when such a shooting occurs. He also said the university needs to teach students how to cope with this issues. He suggested they host sessions to educate students and facilitate discussion on racial tensions.
“I think it’s going to take a long time… I think that there’s more work to be done and I think the upcoming students are the ones who can put a change in that,” said Berko. “I still see a struggle on this campus.”
While many professors work to include diversity in their classrooms, Berko said administration could take more of a part in this. While researching this topic, he found another school had bylaws specifically about diversity in student affairs.
“I think if Suffolk University’s Board of Trustees did that instead of worrying about getting rid of Margaret McKenna, I think that would be a great seller for people to come to the school,” he said. “I feel hurt sometimes, and disappointed, that this institution that we go to is not recognizing these issues or these matters.”
When a Black teenager is shot sixteen times, Berko said some people would say “Oh, it’s just a typical black kid,” but what does this say about our country’s standards?
“No, it’s not a typical black kid,” said Berko. “It’s an epidemic. It’s a thing that’s going on in our country and I feel that students on this campus are not able to understand the fact that this is actually happening. This is happening.”