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Home February: The Month When Black Shines the Brightest

February: The Month When Black Shines the Brightest

Sunday, March 19, 2017

As many people may not know, February was Black History Month. A month dedicated to celebrating one of the most unappreciated group of people across the globe. The black people of America, and countless other nations, have been devalued and dehumanized, but yet have still managed to produce some of the biggest contributions to society. Whether these additions are cultural or technological, it is an unarguable fact that the black community has had a major impact in the world.  

While the deep struggles of  black people are not commonly known, a list of our successes is even more unusual. For example, most people are unaware of the essential modern inventions created by black Americans.

Cultivated by Reggie Smith of Smith-Lenoir Graphic Creations, a list of known black inventors between 1845-1980 alone is over 330 names long. While that doesn’t quite match the number of police killings so quickly assigned to our community, it is worth noting.

Black Americans are credited with making the ice cream scoop, ironing board, golf tee, portable weighing scales, egg beater, traffic lights, fire escape ladders, door knobs, microphones, automatic gear shift, blood banks, gas masks, and thousands of other things people refuse to give the black community credit for.

Our community of not only inventors but musicians, actors, doctors, peacemakers, and more professionals have made leaps and bounds within their fields. Black musicians gave the world jazz (Buddy Bolden), black doctors invented pacemakers (Otis Boykin), and black actors and actresses have been gifting movie screens all around the world since 1927 (Josephine Baker).

While most of these names are not common knowledge, a few black names will never leave the pages of history books. Perhaps some of the best-known black people are the most misunderstood and manipulated.

PBA students, parents, and faculty march during the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
   Day Parade held in Waikiki.

Every American citizen knows the name Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., but not all have the bravery to face his true philosophy. Throughout the years, people have been using his examples of peacemaking to try to wrongfully placate the black community into complacency.

For example, people will comment on the rioting by black Americans by saying, “Dr. King wouldn’t want this.” Instead of addressing the issue causing such rioting, they’re just using it as another way to silence the community.

Sadly, this is true for many of the great black figures who are made an integral part of American history.

Recently, movies like Hidden Figures have come forth to highlight the erasure of black people through history. This film is based off the true story of Katherine G. Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson -- the three black women who helped launch John Glenn into orbit.

The work and ideology of black peacemakers should be celebrated, especially in the context of PBA, a peace-based school.

PBA has already begun to take some actions towards including black individuals in their curriculum. Some classes feature exclusively non-white or female authors while others work hard to provide the journals and perceptions of these kinds of people.

PBA has also taken some action outside of the classroom. This year all students were required to walk in the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day Parade held in the streets of Waikiki. This is a new practice that PBA hopes to continue throughout the years.

However, people like Ralph Bunche and Wangari Maathai should be on the school’s radar for examples of prominent leaders. While their work is not one of a kind, they’re a great example of the many black peacemakers around the world.

Ralph Bunche was the first African American to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for his work in Palestine. Bunche served as a mediator between the different religious groups of the area. They finally reached a temporary treaty in 1949. While the peace was only temporary, it showed the versatile power of peaceful mediation. He combines all of the traits that are encouraged among students at PBA. Ralph Bunche was brave, peaceful, and nonviolent.  

Wangari Maathai, a recent addition to the list of black nobel laureates, is the first black female environmentalist to win the Nobel Peace Prize. A 2004 winner, Maathai is the founder of the Green Belt Movement, a non-profit based on environmental restoration and women’s rights. She would serve as a great influence to the significant amount of students at PBA who have an interest in environmentalist work. This could easily be incorporated into a Peace Core, such as Mr. Velasco’s Radical Movements class.

Most of the names mentioned have a slim chance of showing up in mass media, contributing to the underrepresentation and disacknowledgement of black people across the globe.

As a part of PBA’s mission and philosophy, it is the school’s duty to help combat this on a local, communal scale. This can be as simple as endorsing black authors, artists, doctors, or perhaps the easiest, peacemakers.