Known to many as the time for candy, flowers and other gifts, February is not just about Valentine’s Day. February is National Black History Month.

Black History Month seems to be a time to celebrate the overcoming of major conflicts our country has endured in addition to remembering that facing those problems took strength and courage. As the U.S. recently welcomed its very first African American president, we are able to validate the distance we’ve come since “separate but equal” and racism.

This is a time especially set aside to pay homage to a particular facet of American history. Carter G. Woodson, known as the “father of black history,” originally created this occasion as a week in February in 1926. Over the years it expanded into a whole month dedicated to the history of the African Diaspora.

After 83 years of celebration, Black History Month has been a vehicle in which other issues concerning African Americans are brought to light, such as physical well-being and mental health.

“Expanding the observance of Black History Month to include the promotion of healthy behaviors is relevant and vital to the success of our society,” post-doctoral counselor of UTSA’s Counseling Services, Shawanda Woods, said.

Throughout the month of February, as well during the rest of the semester, Counseling Services will be hosting events around campus to bring awareness to the UTSA community about the importance of mental well-being.

“The stigma associated with mental illness also keeps African Americans from seeking the help they need. Naturally, African American college students are also subject to these misperceptions,” Woods said. “However, research suggests that student participation on campus may provide exposure to counseling services through outreach efforts and workshops minimizing the stigma and encouraging positive attitudes towards seeking mental health services.”

While Woods encourages African American students to feel free to come to Counseling Services for help with personal problems, there are several other opportunities for them to feel comfortable in the UTSA community.

Also at UTSA during this month, there have been and will be events on campus in celebration of Black history. UMOJA, “The Black Student Network,” and the Inclusion and Community Engagement Center have been at the forefront of most of the events.

This month, there have been lectures on cultural issues, displays of Black/African art as well as the Annual Black Heritage Ball this past weekend. An event dedicated to Step and African dance was held on Feb. 6 in which students and faculty learned about how Step dancing originated, in addition to the history of African dance. More serious events, like the National Black AIDS Awareness Day, taught attendees the importance of protecting themselves against the deadly virus.

To conclude the month’s festivities, there will be a Black History Knowledge Bowl Feb. 24 open to anyone with a team that is ready for some fierce competition.

“Eighteen will be competing for cash prizes and (the competition focuses on) 20 different categories including literature, science and music,” Danesha Little, buyer in the purchasing department and treasurer of the Black Faculty and Staff Association, said.

Little explained that it’s important to recognize all cultures in this manner.

“The Knowledge Bowl is something that should be done for Asian Pacific people, Hispanics and women to get people to learn about other cultures and their contribution to American history,” Little said.

It’s important to remember throughout all of the celebration that Black history is a time for Americans to look back at the issues we’ve dealt with as a nation and the strength we’ve had to overcome problems such as racism and hatred.

So much has been done for America by people like Martin Luther King, Jr., Maya Angelou, Rosa Parks and Thurgood Marshall that we should never forget to honor these great givers of our society. Let’s take the chance to honor them now in their month.

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