Spartans find strength in our differences

02-03-2014

On Friday, January 31, 2014, the Michigan House of Representatives passed House Resolution No. 295 declaring February 2-8, 2014, as Chicano History Week in Michigan. February is also Black History Month. While it may seem to diminish the rich histories of these two cultures to designate specific periods of time to recognizing their vast historical and present contributions, many of us continue to have far too little knowledge of Chicano and African American history. And there is a continued need for all of us to engage more deeply across our differences, whatever they may be.

Michigan State University encourages students to learn more about the unique Chicano culture and the Chicano Movement of the 1960s and ‘70s. When we talk about the Civil Rights Movement in this country, we often fail to recognize that this movement extended to a range of communities and cultures, including the Chicano community.

In 1926, Carter G. Woodson, also known as the “Father of Black History,” initiated the celebration of Negro History Week. It was expanded in 1976 to include the entire month of February. Woodson and other black intellectuals believed that those in the black community and beyond should have a greater understanding and awareness of the countless black men and women who had contributed to the advancement of civilization.

There are numerous resources on the MSU campus, both in and outside the classroom, which can help inform the Spartan community about the history, traditions, and culture of those of Mexican and African descent. You can access these resources through such academic programs as the Chicano/Latino Studies Program, Julian Samora Research Institute, and the African American and African Studies Program, as well as courses embedded in many other academic programs at MSU.

Resolution 295 recognizes that we live in a “complex and diversified cultural society” and MSU is well positioned to prepare all Spartans to contribute in meaningful ways, locally, nationally, and globally—you only need to engage.

One way you can do this is by joining the conversation. This year, a special initiative known as Project 60/50 asks us to do just that—join a conversation about civil rights and human rights yesterday, today, and tomorrow. The year 2014 marks the 60th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas. It also marks the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Act. The MSU Office of Inclusion and Intercultural Initiatives will coordinate the yearlong initiative blending academic exploration and public commemoration. For complete information, go to www.msu.edu/6050.

Specially recognized weeks, months, and even years are a critical way to focus attention where it is needed. But what is most important is to come to understand that in our differences lie some of our greatest strengths. Taking the time to learn about one another and about one another’s history and heritage—at all times of the year—can help us not only connect with respect, but immeasurably enrich our experience.

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