What Black History Month Looks Like in the Pandemic

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The Martin Luther King Jr. memorial in Washington D.C. Photo by Emanda Seifu.

Rebecca Heimbrock, Staff Writer

Since 1976, every U.S. President has designated the month of February to be Black History Month. The brainchild of Carter G. Woodson, Black History Month is a celebration of African American achievements and history. This year, it will look a bit different. 

Due to the ongoing deadly pandemic, Woodson High School has been online for the entirety of the fall semester, forcing the Black Student Union to become innovative with their approach to this year’s Black History Month. Senior Hamel Haile, the president of the Black Student Union, has risen to the challenge. 

“BSU is planning on submitting weekly videos to the morning announcements with weekly prompts for club members to answer. For example, the first prompt is going to be, what does Black History Month mean to you?” says Haile. “In addition, the BSU will be making a Black History Month resource pack with various resources on black history in general, which will be uploaded to our social media and hopefully the WTW website as well.”

 

Senior Hamel Haile, president of the BSU. Photo Courtesy of Hamel Haile.

While students will be able to observe the legacy of the month from the safety of their homes, the very reason that they are at home is showcasing deep inequalities in the United States. The COVID-19 pandemic disproportionately impacts African Americans. Recent data from APM Research Lab posits that 1 in 1,000 Black individuals have died from the coronavirus. The CDC states that black deaths from COVID-19 are 2.8 times greater than those of white Americans.

In December, this stark disparity was highlighted as national outrage grew over Dr. Susan Moore’s death. The COVID-positive doctor died after “the white doctor at the hospital in suburban Indianapolis where she was being treated for Covid-19 had downplayed her complaints of pain,” according to the New York Times. “He told her that he felt uncomfortable giving her more narcotics, she said, and suggested that she would be discharged.” 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people from racial and ethnic minority groups are “disproportionately affected by lack of access to quality health care, health insurance, and/or linguistically and culturally responsive health care.” As the pandemic surges with 410,000 U.S. deaths attributed to COVID-19, and 22.9 million recorded cases in the U.S. alone, this year’s Black History Month will be reconciling with a new historic event. 

However, COVID-19 is not the only tragedy that occurred this year for black Americans. This summer’s protests have left some residents of Washington, D.C. feeling traumatized. A D.C.-based activist who agreed to an interview with The Cavalcade on the condition of anonymity emphasized the horrors of this summer’s events. “The police response has been nothing short of dystopic,” they say. “If any more examples are needed, look at how many times D.C. police maced children this summer.” 

This Black History Month, as many historical events continue to unfold, both D.C. and Fairfax residents alike are continuing the legacy of Black History Month through education, mutual aid and other community-based activities.