Today marks the last day of Black History Month for 2022. Black History Month was established in 1976 to honor and celebrate the accomplishments of Black Americans throughout American history. This past month CCD did just that. Throughout the month, our Weekly Update employee newsletter featured stories from employees expressing the personal significance of Black History Month. With the help of our very own history professor, Bill Ashcraft, and our work-study student, Alon Morris, we celebrated the achievements of 26 Black Americans on our social media channels. If you have not had an opportunity yet, I encourage you to visit one of our social media channels and read more about these incredible leaders.
When I reflect on the importance of Black History Month, I am reminded of the beautiful kaleidoscope of cultures that make up this college. The difference in cultural backgrounds brings richness to the diversity of views to our community. Here at CCD, we have a vast array of diverse employees and students that each offer a unique and essential perspective to working and learning in downtown Denver. I remain steadfast that CCD serves this community.
To everyone who bravely shared their stories to express what this month-long celebration means to them, please accept my heartfelt gratitude for our opportunity to learn more through your experience.
To our students, thank you for choosing CCD for your educational journey. We are here to support you so that you may reach your goals every day of the year.
Dr. Marielena DeSanctis
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Read what our employees shared:
Rachel E. Sefton, Ph.D. | Associate Professor of Mathematics
To me, Black History acknowledges and appreciates all of the many gifts that folks in the black community have contributed to society. My awareness and admiration grew when I began teaching at Martin Luther King Jr. Academic Magnet School at Historic Pearl High School (a formerly all-black school), just a few blocks down the road from Fisk University in Nashville, TN. This part of town is steeped in rich, cultural history, and bearing the name of Martin Luther King Jr., the 7-12 school celebrates his birthday and Black History Month without fail.
Since moving to Denver, my family has marched in Denver's annual MLK Marade (March/Parade), and last year, during Black History Month, my husband and I reached out to some of our former students (he had also taught at MLK Magnet) to make a music video remotely of the traditional spiritual "Wade in the Water", which was then played at our church locally.
Here at CCD, while I haven't called it Black History Month specifically, I have changed my profile picture on Webex to be historical black figures like Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, and Katherine Johnson (made famous in the movie Hidden Figures). I also use math worksheets called Person Puzzles (shared by my colleague Alisa Mavrotheris) whose answers tell facts about amazing people like William Kamwkamba (who was born in Malawi and used gum trees, bicycle parts, and scrap materials to build a windmill and provide electricity for his family), Roberto Clemente, and Bob Marley.
Kathryn Mahoney | Associate Dean of Student Programming, Activities & Resources
Black History Month is a time to celebrate Black History and Culture. It’s important to honor the accomplishments, contributions, and sacrifices of the Black community. We need to promote a space where everyone feels valued, included, and recognized. My hope is that we all take the time to learn more about the Black experience during this important month and throughout the year.
Gillian McKnight-Tutein, EdD (Dr. G) | Vice President, Enrollment Administration and Student Success
Black History month is an appetizer to one of the richest of cultural multi-course meals. It is the opportunity to learn and celebrate the accomplishments of the African diaspora. It is the chance to decide how you too will change the world to continue the progress that was begun. It is the time to reflect on how far we’ve grown as an inclusive society and ask ourselves, “Is our pace acceptable? Have we pushed with enough force? Is our target in sight?”
Black History demonstrates those who have never been satisfied with the answer to those questions.
“A people without knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.” - Marcus Garvey
Shelley Banker | Executive Director, CCD Foundation
As educators and administrators at Community College of Denver, our role is to invite, explore, and make space for Black history to be acknowledged and retold in its most accurate form and for Black culture and accomplishments to be celebrated. In our messaging, services, and teaching, we should strive to examine and advocate for practices and policies that promote the true belonging and success of Black students and employees in postsecondary education, the workforce, and our community. Like many of you, I believe that learning, celebrating, and reflecting on Black history should not be dedicated to only the month of February, especially the shortest in the year. Instead, Black history should be embedded in our classrooms, coursework, discussions, activities, and supports throughout campus – all year long.
In my former role as the Senior Advisor to the Office of Educational Equity at the Colorado Department of Higher Education (CDHE), I helped to publish and promote CDHE’s Equity Toolkit, equipping educators to erase equity gaps. The toolkit was funded by the Lumina Foundation and inspired by the Community College of Aurora’s work with the USC Center for Urban Education. Colorado’s toolkit came to fruition thanks to the contributions of countless leaders of the TIE Steering Committee and the leadership of Dr. Brenda Allen and Quill Philips.
As I reflect on what Black history means to me, I think about my experience as a student and learner. I wonder what it would have meant to have greater Black history and perspectives in the classroom – through more racially diverse student voices, curriculum, and literature – and how that would have shaped my early views of how I can contribute to education policy and create a stronger community through access to postsecondary education. I am now proud to work at CCD, where we acknowledge and celebrate diversity and consider how the past has created significant equity gaps in student success and completion. Our administration and faculty are taking steps to create a more inclusive learning environment, talking openly about how we can do better, and celebrating the rich past and accomplishments we find in Black history.
Karey James, Esq. | Professor Paralegal Department
First you should know that as I thought about this I decided my efforts should not be limited to BHM. I should be doing this every month celebrating the diversity campaigns as they arise each month.
Neecee Matthews-Bradshaw, PhD | EXCEL! Writing Zone Coordinator
I’ve been fortunate in my life to have grown up in a home with both my college-educated parents. My parents and extended family instilled in me an understanding of who I am and where I come from. They taught me to embrace a culture rich with the love of good music, low country boils, HBCUs, the natural world, the life of the mind, and spades. They taught me to love myself before I would realize that the world might not always love me back, especially when my experience extended beyond my neighborhood. Over time, I have taught that love to my own child; at her young age she is also learning that we may be treated differently because of things we can little control.
The two questions I started with are just a small example of the questions I greet on a regular basis (yes, still?) as a teacher, a neighbor, or the black lady in line at the post office. And while I know the askers’ intentions are not necessarily mean-spirited, I also am aware of the resistance those questions represent from the askers—perhaps it is an unwillingness to imagine they may have missed something important.
Next spring, when I am teaching African American Literature, I know some students will be wondering the same things. I think the idea is that, Black History Month, like Women’s History Month, Indigenous Peoples’ History Month, National Hispanic Heritage Month, Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, are all a part of American History. To me, Black History Month means that others get to appreciate and celebrate what a more inclusive American History can be.
Alicia Boyd | Early Childhood Education Professor
As we reflect on black cultural experiences and contributions it is important to understand that our black ancestors were trying to survive and live. They were not thinking about their lives being written into a history book for others to express their opinions on it or celebrate. Black cultural experiences and the legacy that they have left has built America in many different ways to name a few:
I am Alicia Boyd and I teach Early Childhood Education foundation courses to students who are interested in teaching children birth and beyond. I will be introducing black authors and black children's books that they can read to their preschool students and beyond. It is important that our children learn to read by 3rd grade and provide authentic reading materials to help them understand the world around them. Some Cultural experiences will be good or not so good, but it completes the experiences. So, as our children grow and have their own experiences and chart their own path, they will be able to share with their children decades later and celebrate their ancestors that came before them.
Ruthanne Orihuela | Provost & Vice President of Academic Affairs
Black History Month is important to me because it lifts up important pieces of my history as an American that were glossed over, left out, or rewritten in the history I learned in school. The achievements I learn about each year during Black History Month spur my curiosity and remind me there is much I do not know.
Each February I commit to reading, watching, and listening to books, programs, movies, and music that help to erode my ignorance of, increase my appreciation for, and bring into focus the lived experiences and perspectives of black leaders, authors, innovators, and artists. That’s what Black History Month means to me.
Karen Perham-Lippman | Adjunct Professor
I have incorporated a BHM extra credit activity into my classroom this month through a discussion post opportunity for my students focused on this year's theme.
Black Health and Wellness - This theme acknowledges the legacy of not only Black scholars and medical practitioners in Western medicine, but also other ways in which the Black community have contributed to healthcare (e.g., birth workers, doulas, midwives, naturopaths, herbalists, etc.) throughout the African Diaspora. The 2022 theme considers activities, rituals and initiatives that Black communities have practiced in an effort to maintain health and wellbeing. (ASALH, 2020).
Students have been asked to write a 2-3 paragraph discussion post utilizing various resources and/or references to research and highlight a black owned business or entrepreneur that aligns with this year's BHM theme (Health and Wellness). I have also provided them with a few references as well.
In addition, a dear friend of mine, Lori Pace will be joining my class on Thursday, February 24 from 6:30 - 7:30 p.m. as a guest speaker. She will discuss her journey as a business woman and entrepreneur, her innovative DEI initiatives focused on the real estate industry and will incorporate themes of the course material in her presentation as well. For example, during this particular week the curriculum for the class is focused on:
Given her amazing story, her experience giving a Ted Talk, her expertise and her brilliance as a business woman, I would love to share this presentation with professors and their sections in the Business School and anyone else that may wish to attend.
Kathy Kaoudis | Chief Financial Officer & Vice President, Admin Services
Each year in February, during Black History Month, I think about the many people who have worked to make things better. People like my dad, who ran the Job Corps Center in Charleston, West Virginia. The Job Corps program started in the 1960s to provide federally funded free vocational and academic training.
Just as we here at CCD seek to change lives through education, so did Job Corps. In the early 1970s, although illegal, segregated schools still existed in the South. However, the Job Corps Center my father directed and ran trained all individuals together, regardless of race. Before this role, my father had been Dean of Education for Nevada Southern University (now University of Nevada Las Vegas). Both my mother and father grew up in rural Nebraska. Moving to West Virginia from Nevada was eye-opening.
Shortly after moving to Charleston, I remember the people of our new church getting to know our family, and one of the questions they wanted to know about was what my father did for work. My parents answered their questions honestly. When we attended church the following Sunday, the people sitting in the pews around us got up, crossed the church aisle, and sat down again, away from my family. Sunday School was a similar experience. During the car ride home, my mother shared what was said to her during the social hour after church. She was told, “your husband should not be running that Job Corps Center that way. In Charleston, we don’t believe in races mixing.” That was the last day we attended that church in Charleston, West Virginia.
Every day, my dad took me to work with him, so I could attend preschool at the Job Corps Center along with the children of the people who were attending the training classes. My dad is part of why I work for community colleges and, in particular, a Hispanic Serving Institution with a majority-minority student population. He believed in treating people with respect and worked to create change, no matter the personal consequences. When you visit my office, please notice the watercolor of the Job Corps Center in Charleston the staff gave my dad when he left several years later for a new position in New Jersey.
As I reflect on the importance of Black History Month, I think about people like my dad, and I have hope. Things are better now than in the 1960s and 1970s, and the future will continue to be better.