Extending Black History Month Beyond February

Evelyn Skyberg Greer, Editor

In celebration of Black History Month the Tosa West Black Girls Summit (BGS) and Black Student Union (BSU) collaborated to create a presentation shared during the month of February. 

The BSU and BGS wanted to bring a community connection to this year’s black history month celebration,” said Tosa West Senior and co-leader of the BSU Layla Allen. “It is always the goal to introduce new experiences, voices, and study materials in the Black History Month presentations.”

The presentations promoted black-owned businesses in Milwaukee while highlighting the importance of black culture and history. 

“We want students to want to know more information. We aim to introduce many areas of interest whether it be history, music, art, literature, or concepts. We want to represent the many aspects that make black culture and history meaningful,” Allen said.

Allen hopes black culture can continue to be discussed and supported outside of Black History Month. 

“It is vital that students and teachers in all classrooms are able to create a space where race can be discussed and black history can be embraced,” she said. “Black culture and history have had an everlasting impact on American culture and history. If we are to truly understand our environment and society, it is imperative we take the time to appreciate all cultures for their unique, beautiful, and impactful contributions.” 

The presentations focused on several black-owned businesses inside of Sherman Phoenix, a shopping mall on the Northwest side of Milwaukee that works to give black-owned businesses a platform and advance entrepreneurship in communities of color. The presentation also consisted of information about The Milwaukee Black Historical Society which is focused around preserving historical heritage of African descent in Wisconsin.

“The importance of Sherman Phoenix in our community was not known to many students before these presentations,” said Allen. “We hope that black students are empowered by black excellence that shines in our community and throughout our history and we hope that all students are able to appreciate the many accomplishments achieved by black Americans.”

Tosa West Senior and co-leader of the Black Girls Summit, Olivia O’Kagbare, feels that black history is an vital part of education.

“I believe it’s important to discuss topics that represent black culture and history in school because black students aren’t only black outside of school,” she said. 

O’Kagbare hopes the presentations encourage community members to support black-owned businesses. 

“I hope that students will become more aware about the black history and culture that is enveloped throughout Milwaukee. Sherman Phoenix and the Black Historical Society are beautiful places just around the corner that a lot of people have never visited,” she said. 

Senior and co-leader of the Tosa West BSU, Miles Coppage, feels that the introduction of black-owned businesses to the Tosa community is beneficial to everybody.

The Black History Month advisory presentations will greatly help to influence and educate our community. They will hopefully influence our teachers, [students], and staff to support black-owned businesses,” he said. “Discussion was also hopefully created around those businesses and how systemic racism has made it harder to start them, and thus why it’s important to go out of your way to support them.”

Coppage hopes that the presentations will help to promote understanding. 

“Our group [of organizers] recognized that businesses are important to any community in building up generational wealth and lifting up the community. So, we decided to highlight them in order to hopefully promote their business, which in turn would help to uplift and help the black community, as well as to spread knowledge on why black businesses are important, in order to fight against the ‘innocent’ ignorance that many hold, and to create more understanding surrounding this aspect of the black community.”

Coppage feels that creating a space for education and information regarding black culture will encourage students to be proactive. 

As far as education, the presentation will educate students on black history and struggles in the black community, providing more knowledge than is taught in schools,” he said. “These presentations and discussions will hopefully open students’ and staffs’ minds to be more empathetic and understanding towards the systemic struggles towards equity of different marginalized groups.”

Coppage hopes that black culture can continue to be covered outside of the month of February. 

“It is important to discuss Black culture and history to help combat the thought that everything that we have been taught from this Eurocentric perspective, is the “correct” or only view of the world,” he said.

In order to further support and promote black owned businesses outside of Black History Month, the Tosa Compass will be working with the Black Student Union and Black Girls Summit to create a monthly released article series that highlights a new black owned business with each new article that is produced. To view the first article in the series click HERE.