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With the conclusion of Black History Month, we review the significance of black history and what it means today. The Hub sat down with Jonathon Rowe ’18, President of Emmanuel’s Black Student Union and Writing and Literature major, to discuss how he interprets Black History.
“In a literary sense, I really enjoy the work of James Baldwin. Just his ability to speak to white Americans about the issue of racism and racial injustice. The way he shares the truth is really lacking in our current discourse,” Rowe notes of Baldwin’s work.
“I have to look at black history in terms of those individuals who are sort of seen on a lesser extent or really not given as much attention as they should be,” says Rowe. “An example of that is Fred Hampton. He was the captain of the Black Panthers chapter in Chicago when he was twenty years old. Up until the age of twenty-one [when] he was the leader of that chapter, he was one of the most prominent Black Panther figures, until he was assassinated at the age of twenty-one by the Chicago police.”
During his life, Fred Hampton worked to unite latinos, blacks, poor white, and Native American communities.
It is challenging to discuss African-American history without mentioning the recent movement and uptick of black exposure through the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. The movement followed the death of Trayvon Martin and similar acts of police violence. Some have found the movement controversial.
“I guess it depends on how you view it, if you’re taking the more conservative view then you’ll say that their tactics of civil disobedience and occupying public spaces is a threat to the state or threat to public law and order,” Rowe told us. This was in regard to recent attacks on police perpetrated by people who claim to be a part of BLM, such as the attack on Dallas police officers.
“The protests themselves have a clear message and a clear focus. They are not out to destroy government property or state property. They want to spread this message that black lives matter,” said Rowe.
The founders of BLM want black lives to be treated with dignity and want to speak out against the state’s devaluing of their lives through racial profiling, police violence, and mass incarceration. The BLM movement reflects elements of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s.
“There is differences between the two just in terms of who’s leading it. You see women taking center stage at a lot of these protests and the movement itself. It’s not just the male focus,” says Rowe, referring to the founders of BLM who are black women. Previous movements had a more men as founders.
“The first thing is getting involved, as an ally. Second of all, recognizing privilege and making sure other people are aware of it too,” Rowe suggests.
For those individuals who find sympathy with the BLM cause and want to educate themselves more on American History please follow the Black Student Union on Instagram or reach out to Jonathon Rowe at firstname.lastname@example.org about upcoming events.
Devin Nelson ’19 is a staff writer for the Hub. He can be contacted by email at email@example.com.