Diverse celebrations

African-American History Month needs to alter focus

By The Advocate Editorial Board

Many people who talk about African-American history often start at the slave trade and end with the civil rights movement.

While the myriad of student groups, civil rights activists, abolitionists and legal groups who helped end the legalized racist practices of the past are important, one cannot forget that African-American history and culture predates slavery and continues to be written today.

So instead of referring to every February as Black History Month, people should call it African-American History Month or just African History Month because, without African history, there is no American history.

Contra Costa College professor Manu Ampim said, “Africans have the longest story of humanity and our society has only set aside a month to celebrate African history. That is simply not enough.”

This simple change of the month’s name would create more interest among students to learn about the history of other cultures, as well as their own.

Tracing one’s cultural roots through historical study is a celebration in its own way.

A person should acknowledge African contributions to science, language and art that span across oceans and thousands of years, every day.

Maybe then CCC would not be the only college in the Contra Costa Community College District with an African-American studies department program.

If you are a student who has taken either Ampim’s or African-American studies department Chairperson Carolyn Hodge’s history classes, then you should be familiar with the evidence that supports the theory that West African and Asian people reached the Americas long before Christopher Columbus was alive.

Evidence of African ocean migration can be found in similarities between the artifacts found at archeological sites in Central and South America and Africa.

The most convincing pieces of evidence were popularized by Mathew Sterling’s expeditions into Mexico during the 1930s.

Farmers throughout the Yucatan Peninsula had discovered 17 intricate heads of Olmec kings, carved out of basalt rock, which range from 4 feet to 11 feet tall.

The heaviest weighs 30 tons and each one of these forgotten kings is depicted with African and Asian features, including dreadlocks and epicanthic eye folds.

The Olmec ruled from 1000 B.C. until 300 B.C. and is considered the mother culture for recognizable empires such as the Aztecs and Mayans.

And after further excavations, many smaller sculptures where found with a wide range of facial features that suggest great ethnic diversity among its people.

Such diversity is mirrored by the student population at CCC, as well as by many urban centers of education throughout the United States.

The primary focus in the K-12 educational system is Western history, which is simply negligent of the study of other cultures — pertinent cultures that deserve attention.