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Celebrating Black History Month: What Does It Mean to You?

As a contribution to Black History Month, University of Arkansas student Jalisa Brown discusses what the month of observation means to her.

What has been your biggest inspiration?
My biggest inspiration is the generation after me. I strive to be an inspiration for people who think there is no way out because I come from the Southside of Chicago comprised of people who don't have the opportunity to get a job or go to college.

What motivates you?
My mission statement in life is to bridge a gap between the better tomorrow. What motivates me is knowing that I can take a few steps in one direction to inspire someone else to take steps in a different, better direction.

Who has served as an inspiration in your life?
There is a strong community of alumni at my school who have helped guide me to where I want to be. At my university, you are not a number. You are a student. Similar to Handshake.

What does Black History Month mean to you?
Personally, I believe Black History Month needs to be normalized and celebrated just like every other holiday. Overall, black people and black experience needs to be normalized. We alter ourselves down so much to be a part of society. But when we take a look at black history, black people have contributed so much to society to still not feel accepted in society as black people.

What can students, like yourself, do to celebrate Black History Month?
Students need to be "black out loud". We make ourselves uncomfortable at work, and act differently than the way we do at home. To be black is ok and, in fact, should be celebrated. We shouldn't water ourselves down. When we desensitize every race and culture, our society will truly change. Be black out loud, be a good person, and be humble, loving, and accepting of other people not like yourself.

As a contribution to Black History Month, Jalisa wrote the following poem and dedicated it to the Handshake community:

Negro History Month

I am the poet Angela Davis wrote for
I am the rebel Harriet Tubman ran for
I am the fight of Marcus Garvey
I am the Dream of MLK
I am a soldier from Malcolm X
I am the intellect of W.E.B Du Bois
I hold the torch of Joseph C. Corbin
I am the blood from Nat Turner
I am the entrepreneur of Madam C.J Walker
I sit in the seat of Rosa Park
My heart holds the hate of the Black Panther Party
I am the grandchild of Sarah Rector
I am who I am today because of my ancestors
Who fought
Who built
Who persevered
Who faced hardships
Who led battles
Who won wars
I have the ability to be great today
Because they did not give up
Black History Month to me is a reminder of everything
I can
and will be

— Jalisa “Jaii” Brown

From the Handshake community, we thank you Jalisa for sharing such impactful and inspiring words. We hope that students within our community adopt a similar mindset and strive to make our society a more accepting place where every individual is celebrated.

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