Before Black History Month was a month-long celebration, it was Negro History Week, started by Carter Woodson in 1926. It wasn’t expanded into the month-long celebration we know today until 1976.
Woodson’s goal was to showcase and teach Black history, but also have it taught alongside American history with no distinction.
For many, Black History Month is a time to learn and reflect on the triumphs and struggles of those who have come before us. While it’s easy to focus on the negatives of what needs to be done in the Black community, some Central Texas community leaders say it's all about staying positive and making strides to change for better.
“We have a long way to go, but we can’t forget how far we have come by coming together,” said Patrick Arryn, Founder and Creator of Change is Here Central TX.
George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Michael Dean and most recently Patrick Warren, are all names that constantly circulate through Arryn’s head. He’s organized countless protest over the last year, taking a stand against police brutality, systemic racism and countless other issues he says plague the Black community. However, Arryn has hope and says he sees his community changing for the better.
“We’ve never had as many Black individuals as far as teachers, principals, police officers, and so you have to take all that in and realize that we are moving forward," he said.
Arryn says education is essential to moving and motivating the community in a positive direction. He says having Black and brown people in positions of power is vital for young kids of color so they can feel confident and believe their goals are attainable.
“We want to make sure that people are keeping up this momentum,” said Tanika Driver-Moultrie, president of the NAACP Killeen branch.
With protests continuing across the globe surrounding police brutality, as well as the nationwide effort to get Black people out to the polls to vote, Moultrie says she is seeing a change too, especially when it comes to people being a part of change they want to see.
“They had this fire in them, the spark, and then that just keeps on keeping on, and so voting is one of these things we don’t want to stop,” she said.
It’s a fight and a drive that mimics leaders before them. Recognizing the hardships from the past is key to unlocking answers to the issues we face today says A&M Central Texas Sociology professor Dr. Roslyn Schoen.
“The main reason why this month should matter to people who are not Black and brown is that this is all of our history. We really have to understand all aspects of our history, even things that make white people like me uncomfortable. If we want to solve any of those problems, if I want to make our world even more wonderful, knowing our history, knowing things that weren’t great in our past, that’s important to make things better now,” said Dr. Schoen.
Although change doesn't happen over night, it does happen with a unified front.
”Black, white, brown, male, female, heterosexual, homosexual, it’s going to take all of us coming together to continue to make America a better place,” said Arryn.
Arryn’s organization, Change is Here CTX, as well as local chapters of the NAACP say they will continue to work within the community to inspire and create change not just in February but all year long.