Madison Welch, an FGCU sophomore with a major in journalism and a double minor in creative writing and English, wrote this reflection on Black History Month for FGCU360.com.
Ubuntu (Oo-boo-ntoo) is a South African philosophy meaning “humanity: I am because you are.” Ubuntu speaks to the fact that we are all connected and that one can only grow and progress through the growth and progression of others.
It started with taking the African ancestors from the motherland, but the narrative only starts with those who jumped into the Atlantic.
We were stored under a boat, tied together like fruit and whipped if we refused. Sadly, this was only the start and many don’t even know our history, The American history of tragedy.
We cover the backs of our brothers and sisters in the face of shackles, whips and chains with every attempt to erase our history, existence and name. Ubuntu, our humanity, was stripped. Even when our ancestors came out on top and won the battle, the enslavers found a way to continue to dehumanize them.
The U.S. Constitution gave all people rights but the treatment of the Black community never changed. Our ancestors were still slaves, not to the white man, but to the systemic injustices that chain them. The trauma of the ancestors trickling into the traumas of their children’s children. The modern-day put-downs disguised as ignorance; excuses to keep Black people from being free. Ubuntu, our humanity, continues to be stripped.
But even in the darkest moments that continue to plague our nation, we stand as one and fight with pride, just as our ancestors did. The legacy was kept, as we continue to march together, never ceasing because the battle has not yet been won. In the words of James Weldon Johnson, who composed the lyrics to “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” “Let us march on until victory is won!” History shows that if we stand together as one nation, one community, one people we are unstoppable and history will remain in its place: the past.
Black history has been dwindled into one month and a measly few chapters in history books, but it is more than that. Black history is all of us. It’s every day. It is the constant drive, motivation and resiliency that Black people have shown since the beginning of American history. History books white out the truth, and our ancestors have begun to fade away through the erasure of countless Black stories. It doesn’t show the full history, just the parts that made the white man less uncomfortable for how they tried to keep us under. It doesn’t show the trendsetters who set the foundation of modern-day fashion. It doesn’t show the inventions and contributions that people of color gave to this world. It doesn’t show the hundreds of successful Black people swept under the rug as if they were criminals when in reality they are heroes. It doesn’t show the leaders that made a difference. It doesn’t show our intelligence and our humor. It does not show us for who we truly are.
That’s why Black history is important, not to just Black people but all people.
It shows that we did everything and more than what they said we could never do. It shows our connection to ubuntu, our humanity. It shows people of all races, all colors, all genders, all shapes, all sizes, that anything is possible regardless of any physical trait that you cannot control.
This is why we celebrate, not just in February but every day. We learn our strength, our rights, our unity and our culture. It fuels the motivation to persevere, despite trials and tribulations. Knowing our history reminds us all of ubuntu, what it means to be human. It provides opportunity and growth. It creates a space for little Black boys and little Black girls to create, to dream, and to live to see a future. It brings us hope and motivation. It brings us closer together. It makes a better world for us to live in.
Ubuntu: “I am because you are.” We are one people. We shall stand together. We shall fight together. We shall celebrate together. With faith, we will one day be able to live together in a symphony of unity.
– Editing assistance by Prisca “Pri” Morisma, graduate assistant in Multicultural Development, and Travell “T.O.” Oakes, coordinator in Leadership Development in the Multicultural & Leadership Development Center
Watch FGCU junior music therapy major Christelle Cajuste sing “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” also known as the “Black National Anthem.” Video by Dale Ward/FGCU.
Black History Month at FGCU
Details for some events are still being finalized; contact Multicultural & Leadership Development at 239-590-7990 or [email protected] for more information. Also follow FGCU_MLD on Instagram and EagleLink.
- Black History Month Kickoff: Feb. 2, 11 a.m.-2 p.m., Library Lawn
- Black History Month Movie Night (Partnership with Student Government): Feb. 5, 5-7:30 p.m., Library Lawn
- The Basement Series: Feb. 9, noon-1 p.m. via Zoom
- African American Read-in: Feb. 10, 10 a.m.-3 p.m., Cohen Student Union Ballroom
- iLEAD Session (“It’s the 10 Black Commandments: A Manual To Leading In A White Society, While Being Black”): Feb. 17, noon-1 p.m. via Zoom
- Black History Month Town Hall: Feb. 23, time and location TBA
- CommUNITY Speaks: Feb. 24, 6-8 p.m.
- Beyond The Lines Social Justice Retreat: Feb. 26-28 on campus.