Black History Month: A Reflection by Chelsea Smith

This blog was written by Poage student assistant Chelsea Smith.

In my years of living, I have never encountered such a difficult feat as growing up.  When I was little, things like color and race did not even cross my mind. I remember being so happy thinking Chelsea Smitheveryone was friendly. This way of thinking continued through elementary into my junior year of high school. It was then where people outside of the school environment viewed my skin differently from everyone else’s. For example, many people in my work place swore me and another African American girl were twins and could not differentiate between our names even though she was much taller and had red hair or when my co-worker said that she only likes my shade of skin over the other shades African American people come in.

The thing is that in middle and high school, the distribution of race was so diverse that I was friends with a lot of people that did not look like me. It wasn’t until I went to college that I was so aware of my color. I went in thinking I would still have a diverse group of friends that I had back in high school. It was almost strange to see the dispersion of people to be so self-segregated. This made me feel that I couldn’t do certain things where I knew I would be the only black girl in the environment.

This is hard to describe but it is such an uncomfortable feeling where people do not look like you. I eventually got over this feeling, because there was so much I wanted to experience here at Baylor, and I was not going to let that ill feeling get in the way of opportunities that I wanted for myself. The fact of being sometimes the only black person in the classroom was such a regular occurrence here that it was just accepted as normal, and I moved on from there. This statement isn’t said to be viewed in a negative light. Of course, there were some disadvantages but there were also many good outcomes that came from it. I have never been so immersed in my black culture until now where I see a multitude of beautiful melanin people that are so warm and welcoming. I believe this to be a great advantage, because what people fail to realize, is that within black culture is a rich diversity of black people.

It is crazy that I did not know much about the rich history of leaders and overall black excellence. Here are just a few examples:

The inspiration of Betty Boop came from a black nightclub singer named Baby Esther. After cartoonist Max Fleischer began to draw Betty, a woman named Helen Kane tried to claim she was the inspiration for the cartoon character.

Martin Luther King’s “I have a Dream” speech was impromptu. His original speech was to be more political. With inspiration from his fellow friend alongside him, he delivered the now famous sermon-turned speech.The first successful open-heart surgery was performed in 1893 by a black surgeon named Dr. Daniel Hale Williams.

Katherine Johnson, Mary Jackson, and Dorothy Vaughan were the women behind the NASA space race.

The Harlem Hellfighters spent 191 days in the trenches during World War I, more than any other American unit.

It is things like this that are so interesting but are saddening because even though all these events happened in America, they aren’t or only briefly talked about in textbooks. It is disheartening to know that through the American school system, the only history I know is half of that fact, in which so many big influences that aren’t acknowledged helped shape America into what it is today.

With all of this said, I am proud to be a part of this community and am excited to keep learning about my deep culture. Each day comes a new adventure that is both rewarding and educating.

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