Those in attendance at BC’s Black History Month celebration were welcomed with the melodies of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” performed by Rosalynn Jones. Stefani Coverson, founder and CEO of Jamii Pae Consulting, came on shortly after as the keynote speaker.
On Feb. 1, Coverson addressed how one can approach changing systems, structures, and institutions — but not without first understanding the foundations upon which they are built. She invited those in attendance to reflect on what they’ve witnessed in the national discourse of today and to recognize its eerie resemblance to conversations of the past.
“If history doesn’t repeat itself,” remarked Coverson, “it oftentimes rhymes.”
Coverson detailed how the black education movement became an act of resistance. Like other acts of civil disobedience, it was rooted in the effort to overturn Jim Crow laws and work toward racial equality. Several states, local governments, and school boards attempted to silence black history education efforts. Self-proclaimed “concerned citizens” were at the forefront of this countermovement, as well.
“Are you starting to hear the repeat or the rhyme of history?” asked Coverson.
There are familiar attempts today to smother efforts of providing the public with an accurate account of US history and the black experience — like the implementation of book bans targeting black authors, states shutting down DEI programs and dropping AP African-American history courses in schools.
Oppression-centered narratives are fostered in the absence of fully contextualized history; they fail to recognize how black joy, art, knowledge, and innovation have always existed despite oppressive structures and barriers. Coverson highlighted that black communities continue to find ingenious strategies to resist these disparities.
Coverson’s call to action: to stay focused on advocating for racial and social justice, despite the “repeat and rhyme” of history — and to stay engaged in black history, every month.
This year’s Black History Month kick-off celebration was sponsored by the Black Employees of Bellevue College, the Black Student Union, and the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.