Time For Equality

Black History Month, as told by Ginger Hamilton

News Writer Lexi Smiley

Photo courtesy of Ginger Hamilton

Photo of Ginger Hamilton

Black History Month means something different to everyone. To some, it is a month of great importance, and to others it may just be another month. It was first commemorated in the United States in 1926; credit for this goes to historian Carter G. Woodson and the Study of Negro Life and History. At the time, it was announced that the second week of February would be known as “Negro History Week.” Later including the entirety of February, Black History Month is recognized by a number of countries such as the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. This month is to honor and remember important people and events in the history of the African diaspora.

Black History Month is especially important to a woman by the name of Ginger Hamilton. Hamilton is the director of the Minority Access and Achievement Program at UH Hilo.

According to Hamilton’s office, the events that have been planned at UH Hilo have sought to provide a cultural perspective about the achievements of African Americans and the impact they have made in our lives. The planning committee is comprised of faculty, staff and students from UH Hilo. Among the co-sponsors that participated include the UH Hilo Diversity Committee, the LGBTQ+ Center, University Dining Center, as well as a number of academic departments such as art and history. One particular theme for 2017 has focused on “Black Women Breaking Boundaries.” This led to the creation of a historical exhibit at the Mo‘okini Library created by students, under the direction of UH Hilo history professor Kerri Inglis.

With the end of Black History month approaching, Ke Kalahea spoke with Hamilton to get her thoughts on this time of the year. When asked what Black History Month meant to her, Hamilton stated, “I see Black History Month as a time to reflect on the history and legacy that African leaders have left in making this world a better place, and it provides us with the opportunity to recognize and celebrate their accomplishments and achievements. I am also grateful for how the efforts of the civil rights era to fight for equality has been beneficial for other underrepresented minority groups, including Native Hawaiians.”

The next question posed to Hamilton was, “Do you feel race relations in America are in a better or worse place than they were a few years ago, or a generation ago?”

From Hamilton’s perspective, “in spite of the progress that has been made since the 60’s, the future that was envisioned by civil rights leaders and their communities has not materialized or reached a level of equity among the disenfranchised and marginalized groups - which is reflected in the ongoing institutionalized racism and discrimination that occurs in our society today. In some ways we took one step forward, but appear to be taking two steps back. However, I do recognize that the struggles were not in vain, and we must rejoice in the many huge successes that we are witness to, including the first African American president, Barack Obama. We definitely have more work to do in addressing this issue.”

As for what Hamilton thinks should be done to address racial injustice and inequality that still exists in our society?

“I believe that education is the key to providing more opportunities for people and helping them to overcome socio-economic disparities. We need to instill qualities of leadership in our young, and support and empower them to assume positions where they become part of the solution and the decision-making. I think it starts in the home and what we teach our children, but our educational systems must also take responsibility in education people who respect, value, and appreciate one another, despite differences. It’s important to have role models, and I direct a program for peer mentors who assist underrepresented ethnic minorities through their first year in college, called PALS (Peer Assistant Linkages and Support).”