United for the future

Fort Dodge Senior High celebrated Black History Month with an assembly Friday, the first such event held at the school.

The Rev. D.C. Darensbourg of Second Baptist Church spoke about why Black History Month is observed.

“The question has been raised, why celebrate Black History Month? Why not white history month?” he asked, offering several examples. “It’s important to celebrate Black History Month because of the cultural and social contributions that African-Americans have made to American life. Here’s the reason why: Because all of us in this room, and all of us across America, have benefited from the contributions African-Americans have made to the social fabric, the political fabric, of this country.”

Tiahna Mericle and Ashley Altman, FDSH students, told the origin of Black History Month and why it’s celebrated in February. In 1926, historian Carter G. Woodson proposed celebrating the birthdays of both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, who were born Feb. 12, 1809, and Feb. 14, 1818, respectively, both of whom played prominent roles in African-American history.

Fort Dodge elementary students in the Athletics for Education and Success program, 15 total, attended the event, each holding a letter spelling out February, with each letter expressing an idea about Black History Month.

F stood for freedom; E for equality; B for brotherhood; R for respect; U for unity; A for accountability; R for responsibility; and Y for “You can make a difference.”

Darensbourg explained that ignorance is not a bad word, that it means people don’t know some things. People being ignorant of the contributions African-Americans have made, he said, creates an ongoing cycle of ignorance.

“What I would suggest is we begin to educate our minds so that we can eradicate what we don’t know,” he said. “If I don’t educate myself, I can’t cause it not to repeat.”

It is the students’ burden, Darensbourg said, to end this cycle.

“There’s some things in your young life that are not your fault. But guess what? It is your problem,” he said. “There’s some things in your young life that you did not cause, but you must deal with. You must wrestle it. And if you do not, you will pass those same conditions on … to the generations that follow you.”

These challenges include latent biases and prejudices.

“There are more hate groups now, in the United States, than there were in the ’60s,” Darensbourg said. “Educate yourself.”

The task, though, is not impossible, Darensbourg said.

“We are the ‘United’ States of America. There are more mixed couples in the United States than there’s ever been before, which means there are more mixed-raced children than have ever been before,” he said, to applause. “There’s more reason than ever before to celebrate the contributions of those persons who have brought us where we are today, in our culture.”

Doug Van Zyl, Fort Dodge Community School District superintendent, concluded the event with his own challenge for the students.

“If you look around our school, we are very fortunate in a lot of ways. Not every high school has what we have,” he said. “Differences are actually strengths, and those are things you need to draw on each and every day. We also need to remember that no matter how we look on the outside, we’re the same on the inside. We’re all Dodgers.”