University of Sussex Students' Newspaper

Black People Making History

Adey Abebe Balcha

ByAdey Abebe Balcha

Oct 5, 2017

There’s an argument that can be made about the problematic nature of black history month. History should be studied in its relevant entirety without any racial divisions. However, we rarely see those who disagree changing their minds or those who agree doing anything about it. It’s not so bad though, because black history month still holds value despite the dilemma. Looking back at how these black revolutionaries inspired the world to change not only reminds us how most of us are able to do the things we do now, but also reminds us that we can continue to improve the world for future generations of black people. However, despite the progress we’ve made, there is definitely still a long way to go *and there are people who are making these strides today.*

There is this idea that the world is a white man’s game, probably because for a long time it was. Representation, particularly in the media, echoes this. Everyone saw Chris Rock’s monologue at the Oscars in 2015 – Hollywood isn’t full of white people, but the award shows are. As disappointing as this is, there are definitely people who break through the barriers anyway, much like Ava DuVernay. DuVernay is the first black woman to be nominated for an Oscar, two academy awards and the first to win Sundance Film festival’s best director prize for her work. Her documentary, The 13th has sparked conversations about the systemic oppression of black people in America leading to unreasonable arrests and jail time because of a broken legal system.

Jesse Williams, famously known as Dr Avery from Grey’s Anatomy, has also invested in documentaries on the black lives matter movement and the school-to-prison pipeline. Many know Williams from his fiery speech at the BET awards talking about the constant state of racism in America and what his fellow artists and creators can do to help change it. Williams has not slowed down from there, he has continued to take a stand against injustice by being involved in many different protests and donating heavily to the cause. These are just a few to name from Hollywood.

Tennis is a sport linked with class – a game to be played by the elite – and by default race. Serena Williams has broken that stereotype.

Today, when we think of tennis, it’s easy for us to picture Serena Williams. With a whopping eight No.1 rankings beginning from 2002, it is no wonder that she would be the face of the sport today, but it wasn’t always like this. Tennis is a sport linked with class – a game to be played by the elite – and by default race. Serena Williams has broken that stereotype. Not only is she the best on the court, but she does so while being unapologetically black. Serena has made a point about keeping up the discussion about racism and sexism in tennis and sports in general. After winning her 22nd Grand Slam title, Serena used that momentum and took to twitter to speak out about violence against young black men in America.

Although Serena Williams is a big name in most people’s vocabulary there are those who have come out from under the radar recently. Unless you are a follower of American football and keep up with the NFL you probably wouldn’t have heard of Colin Kaepernick about two years ago. Kaepernick ultimately put his career on the line to raise awareness about the social injustice in America by taking a knee during the national anthem in the 2016 NFL preseason. This incited insults and threats from Trump and the institution. When many had thought this was the end of his career, it became the beginning of his revolution. His actions have since been followed by other players from other teams and even celebrities.  Kaepernick’s unashamed statement can be compared to Tommie Smith and John Carlos doing a black panther salute in the 1986 summer Olympics. Since beginning his movement, the #takeaknee campaign has blown up on the internet and has only continued to gain motion.

One thing most of these modern day black revolutionaries have in common is the utilization of the internet. DuVernay’s documentary The 13th is streamed on Netflix, Jesse Williams and Serena Williams use twitter and other social media platforms to help keep the conversation going and Kaepernick’s #takeaknee has brought people together to protest the mistreatment of black people in America, but none compare to the Black Lives Matter movement that took the internet by storm. Founders Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi used the #blacklivesmatter to speak out against injustice and police violence in the wake of the death of Trayvon Martin followed by Eric Garner and Michael Brown. Since the first use of that hashtag, black lives matter has become a revolutionary movement echoing the civil rights movement of 1968.

When future generations study black history it will be no surprise if these names are the names that are being studied. These people are making history today.

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