February 23, 2023

By Eric House

Black history month celebrate. vector illustration design graphic Black history month

Black History Month is an annual celebration of achievements by African Americans and is known to be a time for recognizing and honoring their central role in U.S. history. This February, we asked World Learning staff how they celebrate the occasion and keep the lessons of the month alive throughout the year.

Nicolette Regis, a program officer with World Learning’s International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) team, sees Black History Month as a time to learn more about African Americans throughout history and celebrate African American achievements made in the present.

“It is important to have a month of reflection and education to bring more awareness to, and reaffirm, the breadth of African American contributions to American history and culture and to the world,” she said. “This month provides an opportunity to celebrate both past and present achievements and to acknowledge that representation matters. I like to honor Black History Month by attending a combination of educational and artistic events.”

Wagaye Johannes, World Learning’s chief diversity, equity, and inclusion officer, enjoys going to a performance by the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. The world-renowned performing arts group, founded in New York in 1958, builds on the African American heritage and other cultures to unite people of all races and backgrounds. It was founded by dancer and choreographer Alvin Ailey, Jr., who is considered one of the greatest pioneers in the dance world.

We must find ways to continue our education beyond Black History Month.

Baylee Easterday, an IVLP program associate, made use of a Black History Month resource calendar created by Melissa Phineus, university relations manager for School for International Training. Easterday describes the calendar as an intersectional and educational option for all learning styles within the organization.

“Our colleague Melissa Phineus made a fantastic calendar of resources, one for each day of Black History Month,” she said. “I am looking forward to continuing to engage with these resources that honor different aspects of Black history and experience throughout the year.”

“While Black History Month is important in itself, it is even more important to acknowledge the fact that Black history is American history,” Phineus said. “In education settings and beyond, Black history must be incorporated and taught in the same sense that we teach all American history, as the two are so deeply intertwined.”

For Ian O’Brien, director of security and global program operations at World Learning, the resource 28 Days of Black History has been helpful for his family to honor the month. Developed by author and speaker Nicole Cardoza as part of the Anti-Racism Daily newsletter, the website provides information on current events paired with historical and personal context to illustrate the persistence of racism on an international scale.

This month provides an opportunity to celebrate both past and present achievements and to acknowledge that representation matters.

“Designating a month to focus on Black history provides an opportunity for us to honor the contributions and sacrifices of African Americans, and, more importantly, forces us to remember and wrestle with the adversities and injustices so that they might not be repeated,” he said. “I think of my three children and how important it is for me that they understand this history in a thoughtful and empathetic way.”

While the month of February is dedicated to reflection, education, and the celebration of Black history, making time throughout the year to continue learning is just as important.

“We must find ways to continue our education beyond Black History Month,” Phineus said. “I created the Black History Month calendar to be a resource to the World Learning and SIT community, and hope that it can be a reminder that these resources are available beyond this month. The Smithsonian Institution, for instance, has lots of information that can be accessed throughout the year. And the National Museum of African American History and Culture isn’t only open during Black History Month. There are ample resources at our disposal all year long—we just need to make the effort to tap into them and continue learning.”