To many on Mercer Island, Black History Month is celebrated to honor influential African Americans; however, few people are taught the real meaning of the month and the challenges that black people in the United States still face today.
ASB Accountant Valerie Perine shared her opinion with The Islander on the recognition of African American achievement at the high school.
“I don’t see [MIHS students] celebrating Black History Month,” Perine said. “They know Black History Month exists, but they don’t know about black history.”
Freshman Antonio Ji agreed. “[Students] don’t celebrate it, although I do see some posters in the hallways mentioning it,” Ji said. “I would say that people know slightly what it is, but I don’t think people are honoring it.”
Security Liaison Kelly John-Lewis cautioned that this ignorance creates a negative environment for students.
“There’s nothing that’s positive for kids of color at MIHS,” John-Lewis said. “Education, which is the most powerful thing on the planet, is controlled by white people, [they] control the narrative, [they] control what you learn, how you learn.”
According to John-Lewis, Mercer Island students, despite the spirit behind Black History Month, are not fully aware of the racial inequality still present in this country.
“It’s celebrated to bring awareness to the contributions that black people have made to America,” Perine said. “A lot of things that we do daily are because of what black people have done, the sacrifices they’ve made, the inventions that they created, a lot of things wouldn’t be without them.”
Perine also argued that striving for equality is always necessary, no matter what race you are.
“If we’re all human, we all should be treated equally,” Perine said.
John-Lewis also said that leadership opportunities for African Americans are extremely rare.
“If you look at sports, yes, there are many rich black athletes, but there are no black owners. There are very few black head coaches,” John-Lewis said.
Ji added his opinion on equal rights and the problem we still face.
“I feel like equal rights should come with equal responsibilities in that one side shouldn’t always have to deal with all of the consequences even though they have equal rights, which is one thing that I feel like some movements are ignoring,” said Ji. “There are definitely still some stereotypes involving different races.”
Black History Month serves to recognize the fight for African Americans to achieve human rights.
“Black History Month is a great opportunity to celebrate the movements created by the Black Historical figures, such as Martin Luther King Jr, Rosa Parks, and many others” said Ji.