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Black and white photograph of Carter Woodson
Although President Gerald Ford officially established Black History Week in 1975, its roots stretch back to 1915, when historian and author Dr. Carter Woodson founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History. (This eventually became the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, or ASALH). The association established  Negro History Week in 1926 to encompass the February birthdays of both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, two of the most prominent figures in the fight to end slavery in the 19th century.
One year later, first ASALH and then Ford expanded Black History Week into a full month. Congress made it official a decade later. 
Today, Black History Month is a time for recognizing history, struggles, talents, and achievements of African Americans in this country.  More information about Black History Month is available on the ASALH website and the US government's Black History Month website.
As part of of our "Community Voices" series, we asked Gabby Beene, a 6th grader at Lincoln Middle School, to write about what Black History Month means to her. As part of a recent school presentation to the Board of Education on initiatives to support African-American students at Lincoln, Gabby and a group of other Lincoln students recently spoke about racist comments they have had heard at their school. We thank the Lincoln students and staff team for bringing these concerns forward. AUSD and Lincoln staff are now investigating those reports and taking steps to raise the school community's awareness of the harm caused by such comments and how best to respond to them in the moment (more information is available in this February 29 community bulletin).
Why Black History Month is Important (All Year Long)
by Gabby Beene
We all know that Black History Month is important but what is more important is that we talk about the accomplishments of Black people all year round.  We also need to acknowledge the racism that Black people are dealing with all year round. As a Black student in Alameda Unified, I have experienced racist comments many times. I wish people knew that students are making racist comments toward the Black community at our schools, and that when  students make these comments, it really hurts our feelings. It’s hard hearing non Black students saying the n word , giving out the n word pass, or saying things that sound like the n word. For example people will say Niger (ny-ger) instead of the n word.  Sometimes the teachers hear these jokes but don’t do anything about it because they don’t know how to address it, and they may need more training to know how to address it. By standing  back and letting these things happen, they are sending a message to the students that what they are saying is acceptable. 
I don’t think that students always know the meaning of the words they are using, so we should learn about Black History all year round and not just in February. Students should have history lessons about the background of these jokes so they can know how hurtful these jokes really are. It’s also hard when some teachers treat me differently than students of other races. Black students need people and teachers who they can relate to and who understand what they are going through.  At Lincoln we have the Truth program which is a community of Black students led by Black teachers.  It is a space where I feel understood and where I can go if any racial issues come up.  
For Black History Month, I would ask teachers and parents to educate their students on more Black History, not just the same people we hear about every year.  We can all prevent these racial comments from happening in the future by having a strong understanding of the history behind the racist comments, and establishing a common way to respond to these situations. We should also work on recognizing our biases against students of color. By improving in all of these ways, we can get rid of hate speech at this school and truly celebrate Black History Month.