Celebrating Black History Month - Black Excellence at Beloit College
In honor and in celebration of Black History Month, SSEC is highlighting the contributions of these remarkable people. We invite you to read their stories below.
Dr. Atiera Coleman
Dr. Atiera Coleman, class of 2010, is the Associate Dean of Student Success, Equity, and Community, as well as the Co-director of the Weissberg Program for Human Rights and Social Justice. She is also the acting director of the McNair Scholars Program, which seeks to increase the number of low-income, first-generation, and underrepresented minority students in Ph.D. programs.
Black History Month is the country’s way of highlighting marginalized voices in history. However, Black history is everyone’s history, so while the intention of highlighting Black excellence and contributions is a good one, it is important to acknowledge that Black history is American history.
Dr. Coleman looks up to all that came before her; from her parents, grandparents, teachers, professors, to other famous influential people. She says that she has so much to learn from those before her and that intergenerational knowledge production is integral to being an effective agent of social change.
Black History is important because of the contributions that Black Americans have made to build this country into what it is today. Despite the horrible violence, trauma, and death that Black Americans have experienced, they have contributed to every aspect of society from the economy, medicine, numerous inventions, education, activism, music, sports, and many more. Without that history, there are gaps in the story that can be told about the past, but it also erases the persistence and resistance of the Black community that has consistently pushed our country forward to achieving better racial equity.
Dr. Coleman finds the Beloit campus and community rich with successful and passionate individuals. She wishes and strives for more campus and community connections and collaborations. The Beloit City community is rich with information that would be valuable to Beloit students. Seeking out and valuing all of these different forms of knowledge bases is critical in truly educating and preparing Beloit students for the world. Recognizing the rich diversity on campus and in the city is not only necessary but also an asset to obtaining a truly well-rounded education.
There are so many challenges that impact the African American community. However, a broad issue is access. Because of racial and economic discrimination, the African American Community struggle with fair access to jobs, healthcare, education, clean water, wealth creation opportunities… The list goes on. There is no easy or quick solution to this, but within the SSEC (Office of Student Success, Equity, and Community), providing academic and economic support, as well as providing access to opportunities for students, educating the campus, and training faculty and staff to support these efforts, is our way of addressing these issues at Beloit.
Dawn Redd has been at Beloit College for 13 years. She worked for 12 years as a volleyball coach and now is the Associate Director of Admissions, as well as the Coordinator of Athletic Recruitment. Dawn’s job is to recruit students from the Chicago area and work with student-athletes.
Dawn has a young daughter, and this has changed the meaning of Black History Month for her. She wants her daughter to be proud of her history and have positive role models. Both success and struggle in Black history should be acknowledged, as success comes from struggle. She wants her daughter to feel like she can celebrate herself, and not feel like she is less than for any reason.
Dawn looks up to her sisters from Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. They’re amazing people who do a lot of community work. She looks up to them for how they give back so much to their community. She also looks up to people on campus who have been here a long time, and have put in the work and time to help the campus become more diverse as a college.
Black people are Americans, and Black History is American History. There are no other Americans who share the same history and story.
Relationships at Beloit are not just surface-level when the effort is put in. Dawn and her coworkers have come to know each other well and care about each other in a tight-knit community.
A great challenge facing the African American community is systemic hindrances to success. The struggles facing the community during the civil rights era, such as redlining and housing discrimination, are still going on today. White people need to acknowledge that people are still being hindered and that even though Black people are succeeding, there are also barriers in place that make success difficult for many African Americans.
Cherish Golden is an admissions counselor who works with first-year domestic students, as well as domestic and international transfer students.
To Cherish, Black History Month presents an opportunity to have Black History brought to the forefront. It provides a platform for unique stories that have been historically overlooked to come out.
Cherish looks up to Cecil Youngblood for how long he’s been at the school and how successful he’s been in many roles around the campus and community. She really admires his upward mobility and perseverance.
Black History isn’t just important to American History, it is American History. A lot of the foundations of America wouldn’t be what they are without Black History. History has been whitewashed and a lot of contributions from Black Americans have been overlooked. Black History Month provides clarification for that history.
Beloit is a predominantly white institution (PWI), but it’s a diverse community and Beloit offers a lot of visibility to students of color.
Police brutality and racial profiling are some of the biggest challenges facing the greater African American community. Better and more thorough training, as well as mental health assessments, inclusion, and diversity training, should be standards for police training to try and prevent these tragedies. In comparison to other professions, police training is very short, so a longer training to provide more extensive and comprehensive training could be beneficial.
Regina Hendrix is the director of Help Yourself Programs, a community outreach initiative for low-income, minority, marginalized and underrepresented youth in the Greater Beloit area. She works to guide students to live out their potential.
Regina is always proud of her heritage, but Black History Month provides a time and space where it is more comfortable for her to be openly celebratory. It’s an excuse to teach about her heritage and history that may have been overlooked, as well as honoring those who came before.
Regina looks up to Black artists, educators, mentors, and overall unapologetic African American women. She lives the way she does in hopes to live up to the women who came before her.
Often, Black history has been swept under the rug. Black people have contributed so much to America and its history, and now people are more comfortable talking about the past and acknowledging the mistakes that have been made.
Regina would describe Beloit’s community as diverse, as well as having the potential to be a prototype for other communities. Beloit is small but mighty, and although there is work to be done within the community, there’s something special here.
Regina describes how in the past, she has had to battle between the desire for recognition and validation from the white community in her work, and being satisfied with the knowledge that she is making a difference with the work she is doing, regardless of the recognition it may get. She would ideally like to see people admit when they hold prejudices, and do real work towards making a difference, even if it doesn’t get recognized. The change starts within the self and the decision to make a change for the better. People need to stop judging one another and instead learn the history that may drive people to do what they do.
Whitney Helm is the news and social media manager for Beloit College.
In her opinion, Black History Month has evolved. In the past, it has been about learning the history of the Civil Rights movement. Now it is about celebrating blackness in every form that it comes in. Celebrating the past and the present is important, but it needs to be balanced with acknowledging past struggles and atrocities.
Whitney looks up to a variety of people, but describes her experience more as “looking across from” a peer group of strong Black women. Black women network with each other, and are able to understand each other on a level that nobody else can. In terms of specific people, Whitney says she looks up to her older sister and the actress Issa Rae.
If Americans don’t know their history, they are doomed to repeat it. There needs to be more work done, especially in recognizing that there is more to Black History between slavery, civil rights, and Obama’s presidency. There is a lot going on right now, both in terms of Black excellence, and struggles that are still present today. Black history is American History; one cannot exist without the other. Black history is intertwined with other social issues, such as women’s rights and other important issues facing America; it’s impossible to work on those issues without acknowledging Black history.
Whitney describes Beloit’s community as a work in progress.
One of the biggest challenges facing the African American community according to Whitney is the continued systematic disinvestment in the Black community. An ideal society would already be equitable. What can be done to change this world, however, is to vote in politicians (at every level) that support policies which reinvest in the quality of life within Black communities, and for people to be active in their communities - such as going to local council meetings, supporting black businesses, and building coalitions across other communities of color.
Ron Watson is an Associate Professor of Political Science and Health & Society.
For Ron, Black History Month has always been a time to celebrate the achievements of Black Americans, but also a time to contemplate the ways American society must continue to grapple with the past and improve itself for the sake of future generations.
Ron looks up to Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman as examples of personal strength and bravery that inspire him to do better.
America, as it is today, would not have been possible without the effort and sacrifice of so many unnamed people of African descent. For this reason alone, knowing this history is important for everyone.
Beloit College’s campus and the surrounding city are, as a rule, welcoming spaces filled with people who try hard to make this community the best it can be.
Poverty and its effects remain the single greatest challenge to the African American community here. Ideally, this problem could be addressed through trauma-informed schooling, living wages, new and exciting job opportunities, and improved community health.
Cecil Youngblood is Beloit College’s Dean of Students, Chief Diversity Officer, and Title IX Coordinator.
Cecil would describe his work as doing whatever is necessary and whatever he is called to do and/or believes is necessary to make sure that all students are given what they need to be successful. Along the way, he hopes everyone learns something about themselves and each other.
Unfortunately, Black History Month is the one time of the year that black, brown, and white folks take the time to acknowledge and celebrate the accomplishments of people of color from the past, and to a lesser extent the present. This is unfortunate only because after that month the celebration, remembrance, and acknowledgment go away until the following year!
There is not just one Black figure that Cecil looks up to. As was pointed out by a speaker he just heard, everyone needs to create and have a “board of directors” that are integral in developing who they are and where they go for guidance and balance. As he starts to go down the list of names, starting with his father, there are so many others that are tied to him that even he does not stand alone. To paraphrase, he would say “it took a village for me!” And that village is who he looks up to.
Black History is important to American History because Black history IS American history. There is no America without it!
Beloit College’s community is polarized but still working toward its aspiration of inclusion, equity, and anti-racism as an important pathway for the success of its students. The City of Beloit is a very interesting, racially and culturally diverse town with much to offer. Unfortunately, it is currently divided in many ways, such as racially and socio-economically, which needs to be addressed by groups and individuals with long histories in Beloit. Like with the college’s community, however, there is a lot of potential within the City of Beloit’s
The biggest challenge facing the African American Community is lack of unity! Any ideal solution for this, however, would be trial and error. If there is a solution it is to start working towards creating unity instead of just talking about the problem. The best this country as a whole has felt was when African Americans unified to elect Barack Obama. As much as it was about America’s first Black president, it was also about African Americans as a people uniting around something important and getting it done. African Americans represent the number one group of consumers of goods in the world! The power behind the African American community would be unimaginable if the community was unified.
Christopher Joyner is the Director of Choirs and Coordinator for Performing Arts Recruitment. He directs two college choirs, teaches conducting, and recruits students who are interested in Music, Theatre, and Dance.
While Christopher celebrates Black History every day, this month is a time to recognize the sacrifices, contributions, and achievements of Black Americans to the United States and the world. Christopher grew up in a military family and has attended many schools around the world and commonly, the perspectives, experiences, and discoveries of Black Americans were not an integral part of my learning. Black History Month provides an opportunity to hear the voices and experiences of people who have historically been oppressed, ignored, marginalized and overlooked in this country. It’s not just a time to celebrate Black Americans who have paved the way; it is also a time to consider how more justice can be brought to the daily lives of everyone.
Christopher looks up to all the great black leaders before him who were vocal, stood for what they believed, and created the space for him to be successful and continue their legacy. Civil Rights leaders, entertainers, educators, family and the like all have impacted his life in one way or another and it’s his personal goal to pay it forward and do the same for those behind him.
The reason why Black History is important to American History is simple - Because Black History is American History (The good, the bad, and the ugly). Your pie won’t taste the same without all the necessary ingredients, would it?
Beloit is a place where many people are committed to doing the work necessary to prepare their students for the real world beyond Beloit, Wisconsin. Christopher admires that in many cases, the college has not been afraid to speak up on injustices, take steps to fix them and also admitting that in some cases they “just got it wrong.”
Broadly, one of the biggest challenges facing the African American community is wealth and the systematic obstacles to getting good jobs. Black families need more wealth to invest in their own futures. Wealth can be used to support education, start a business, buy a house in an area with access to good jobs, and to move to new places for better opportunities. Having less wealth makes all these benefits much harder to achieve.
Jamarr Elliott is the Office Coordinator at the Health and Wellness Center. He is in charge of scheduling all counseling and Health appointments, appointment reminders, filing health information, answering phone calls, and responding to a variety of questions day in and day out about HWC’s staff and services.
Black History Month is a time to honor, reflect, and teach about the tremendous contributions, sacrifices, and the brilliance of Black Americans that ultimately helped shape this country through their brains, blood, sweat, tears, and in many cases lost their lives in efforts to stand against hate and stand for the American idea.
Jamarr looks up to many Black figures such as Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and Barack Obama.
Black History is important to American History because Black History is American History. America was built on the blood and backs of African slaves and their descendants are responsible for some of the greatest inventions, discoveries, Poets, Presidents, Artists, and Architects that the world has ever known.
Jamarr describes Beloit’s community as a melting pot of many different views and attributes relentlessly trying to improve for the future while learning from the past.
When asked about the challenges facing the African American community, as well as possible solutions, Jamarr answered: “We are challenged in the fairness of the judicial system and in the fairness of the workforce along with a strong history of racism in this country that is still apparent today. We need to truly patronize and support each other wholeheartedly. Then continue to build families with strong core values and a strong moral compass. Then gain financial freedom by investing in our own business, banks and land and more importantly teach those things to our children so that they can carry the same family values for generations to come. This I believe will help strengthen our communities and us as a people.”
Pasquell Wisdom is a Facilities Housekeeper.
Black History month is a celebration of the many sacrifices, innovations, inventions, music, and various other contributions made by Black Folks throughout time.
Pasquell’s favorite figure for Black excellence currently is Hakeem Jefferies, Us Representative for NY.
Black History is important to American History because if you leave Black History out of the equation you have no America, culturally or infrastructure wise.
Beloit’s community is a beautiful bubble! Pasquell was fortunate enough to grow up here and be surrounded by so many different hues of skin color. This really made him feel like he actually had a place while growing up in rural Wisconsin.
The greatest challenge for Black culture, right now, in Pasquell’s opinion is the acceptance of the LGBTQ community within Black spaces. Pasquell said: “It hurts my soul to have read about the civil rights movement and all we went through with our oppressors, just to see Black folk as a collective do the exact same thing 50 years later to the LGBTQ community.” Pasquell believes an ideal solution would be found in the idea of love and empathy towards one another. He suggests everyone unlearns all ideas of normalcy brought to them by colonialism and Christianity. He also suggests everyone learns to look at situations through different lenses or optics. “If we only see the world from our own perspective we’ll never have the ability for growth.”
What Is Black History Month?
National African American History Month in February celebrates the contributions that African Americans have made to American history in their struggles for freedom and equality and deepens our understanding of our Nation’s history.
The contributions of many of the men, women, and children that not only made great contributions to the freedom of the African American Race but also great contributions to the many aspects in their professions like Gladys West. It is to celebrate and promote the people of color in the past that did not get the recognition that they deserved and often bring to light the misinformation that has been spread about African Americans throughout history.
The African American community comes together to support one another and celebrate the achievements of the past and the achievements that are soon to come.
History Of Black History Month
Today, it is clear that African Americans have significantly impacted the development of the social, political, and economic structures of the United States and the world.
Credit for the evolving awareness of the true place of African Americans in history can, in large part, be bestowed on one man, Carter G. Woodson. And, his brainchild the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, Inc. is continuing Woodson’s tradition of disseminating information about black life, history, and culture to the global community. in 1926, Dr. Woodson initiated the celebration of Negro History Week, which corresponded with the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln.
In 1976, this celebration was expanded to include the entire month of February, and today Black History Month garners support throughout the country as people of all ethnic and social backgrounds discuss the black experience.