Since 1976, the United States celebrates Black History Month every February and highlights the important Black figures who have paved a path of progressiveness.
However, as March creeps closer on the calendar, celebrating Black culture and history should not be left in the dust of the past month.
Pepperdine and the United States must continue to recognize the importance of Black voices and go beyond performative activism and tokenization, but a comprehensive push toward understanding Black History. At a local level here in Malibu, understanding Black History Month means everyone should elevate Black voices in as many areas as possible, and acknowledge ways we all can do better.
Pepperdine continues to make strides regarding Black visibility on campus.
When many think of Black History at Pepperdine, the tragic story of Larry Kimmon’s death may come to mind.
In 1969, the 15-year old boy was shot on Pepperdine’s original L.A. campus after playing basketball with his friends. Kimmon’s unjustifiable death can never be forgotten and should be honored all year round.
Despite Pepperdine’s adverse history with diversity and equity, there are marks of Black History present on campus that one can tangibly see.
For instance, Pepperdine hired J. Goosby Smith — the first Black vice president of Community and Belonging. Acting as Smith’s assistant vice president is April Harris Akinloye — a Black double alumna of Pepperdine — who is involved in facilitating “the creation of fertile ground in which all Pepperdine community members know they belong and can reach the levels of spiritual, intellectual and professional development,” according to the office’s site.
The Office for Community Belonging set up shop in the Thornton Administrative Building in June 2021, and started in March 2021.
In addition to the introduction of the OCB, Pepperdine brought the option for students to pursue an African American Studies minor in the Seaver curriculum. The University also has seven diversity councils, with a university-wide council and six individual school councils. The council for Seaver College seeks to foster an inclusive climate, as well as to “facilitate the integration of diversity into teaching, research, service and scholarship.”
These additions show the University is progressing in a positive way, seeking to acknowledge Black and POC voices, as well as making lasting change. Nevertheless, there are still areas of improvement.
The new Uganda program is still a possible area of concern. While expanding International Programs is great, it shouldn’t turn into an instance of white saviorism.
Learning in a new country can be great to adapt to new areas of thinking and find other ways to apply those lessons in your own community. However, it should not be a photo-op or an instance of Pepperdine students trying to help individuals living there as if they were a charity case.
The Pepperdine community is doing a better job of being cognizant of its Black student population and understanding the issues that affect them. Furthermore, seeing more Black leaders and administrators also changes the culture of ignorance on Black issues at Pepperdine.
It’s also important to acknowledge and lift up voices of Black student leaders like BSA, Alpha Kappa Alpha Tau Lambda Incorporated, Alpha Phi Alpha Incorporated or students leaders in HRL and other departments.
The Black Alumni Group highlights and acknowledges Pepperdine alumni. The organization is “committed to serving and coalescing African American alumni … while focusing on creating opportunities, and offering resources to African American alumni, students and the community at large,” according to its website.
Continuing and developing organizations such as these require university-wide support, and should be at the forefront of Pepperdine’s agenda.
Elevating Black voices isn’t just about looking to identity groups to educate us as a University but allowing as many voices from that group to give their thoughts without fear of retribution.
So even though we are momentarily bidding adieu to Black History Month, Black people, Black voices, Black contributions — and above all — Black lives should never be banished to the back of our minds at any point of the year.
Follow the Graphic on Twitter: @PeppGraphic
Contact the Graphic: firstname.lastname@example.org