FRESNO, CA – As the annual tradition of Black History Month continues in communities throughout the United States and worldwide, its humble beginnings of one week long surpassed the original vision of its founder, Harvard historian and author, Carter G. Woodson.
Woodson’s hopes to raise awareness of African American’s contributions to civilization was realized when he and the organization he founded, the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH), conceived and announced Negro History Week in 1925. The event was originally first celebrated during a week in February 1926; encompassing the birthdays of both Abraham Lincoln (Feb. 12) and Frederick Douglass (Feb. 14), according to www.AfricanAmericanHistoryMonth.gov.
Black History Month was first proposed by black educators and the Black United Students at Kent State University in February 1969. The first celebration of Black History Month took place at Kent State one year later, from January 2, 1970 – February 28, 1970.
Six years later, Black History Month was being celebrated all across the country in educational institutions, centers of Black culture and community centers, both great and small, when President Gerald Ford recognized Black History Month, during the celebration of the United States Bicentennial. He urged Americans to "seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history
Meanwhile, its annual observance extends across the United States to Canada, Ireland, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom.
Today local governments also understand the importance of recognizing achievements of African-Americans in their community.
During the February 14 City of Fresno council meeting, newly elected District 7 Councilman Nelson Esparza sponsored and presented a proclamation of February to be Black History Month to activists and leaders from the Black community who received public recognition for their dedication.
Most importantly, three young leaders were highlighted for their ingenuity and dedication to enhance the entire community: Kieshaun White, Kevin White, and Marcel Woodruff.
Future scientist and programmer, Kieshaun White headed project “Healthy Fresno Air,” where he was awarded a grant in 2017 through the Boys and Men of Color group, which recently was awarded $50,000 by former President Barack Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative. White, who was an asthma sufferer most of his life, wanted to educate people about the air quality daily regarding environmental airborne hazards. The experiment used drone technology and tools to measure pollutants found in the air over city schools. The data is stored, explained, and made public through a website and app, purpleair.com.
Over 500 Internet of Things devices have been programmed and customized by White and placed in school campuses throughout the Central Valley; people are able to determine the danger levels of the air quality play by play through this community air monitoring system.
Councilman Esparza, who is African-American and Latino, has noted the importance of Black History Month throughout his social media postings in February:
“I am proud to stand alongside our local leaders in the African American community as we proclaimed the month of February to be Black History Month. It was a humbling experience to present the Proclamation to Keion White, a young community leader with big dreams and a bigger heart; his brother Kieshaun White, and their mentor Marcel Woodruff.”