Black History Month

Posted by Natasha Martin, JD, Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion on Friday, February 5, 2021 at 4:35 PM PST

Not everything that is faced can be changed; but nothing can be changed until it is faced.
- James Baldwin

Dear Seattle University Community,

As we begin this month of February honoring Black history, we are mindful of the paradox of beginning this designated celebration amid the deep polarity and tumult of our times, and wounds that only time and intention can begin to heal. This is precisely why we must honor the vast contributions of Black people, as well as face our irreconciled past. No stance toward unity can truly abide without honestly confronting the centuries-long history of anti-Black racism, white supremacy, and racial terror that defines America. This is the only way toward wholeness. We invite your continued reflection on this consequential year and your resolve to change the course of our shared history.

Significantly, we have been living and making Black history over this last year through a global pandemic and looming economic crisis, both with disproportionate impacts on communities of color, and the largest social movement in history for Black lives and racial justice. More recently, in the span of less than four weeks, we have borne witness to conditions that illuminate the need for truth, dignity, and evolution, as well as several “firsts” including Kamala Harris’ ascendancy to Vice President of the United States, Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman’s global debut through prophetic prose reminding us who we are and who we can become, Raphael Warnock’s historic Senate win in Georgia, and Nobel Peace Prize nominations for The Black Lives Matter Movement and Stacey Abrams. Black history is American history.

Notably, this past Monday, February 1st marked National Freedom Day, when in 1865, Abraham Lincoln signed a resolution outlawing slavery – precursor to the 13th Amendment of the Constitution.  In 1926, Carter G. Woodson, a Harvard-trained educator, working with the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History established Black History Week, and it became a month-long endeavor in 1976. (Read more about the origins of Black History Month.) In this spirit, we honor those courageous souls like the late John Lewis whose “good trouble” offered pathways for Black excellence, beauty, resilience, and joy to triumph and flourish. The sacrifices of countless ordinary citizens who faced great danger deserve reverence and gratitude. Honoring their legacies, however, demands more than mere regard; we must tackle systemic racial inequity and discrimination that endure in policy and practice, as well as in hearts and minds.

We remain inspired by our Jesuit mission and values, and hopeful in challenging times, in part, because of courageous members of our campus community and beyond who are doing their part to build a more just and humane society, and more equitable and inclusive university.

Over this month, guard against an unexamined celebration of Black history. Let’s continue educating ourselves on the experiences of Black people in our nation and globally. Our efforts will bear fruit toward the wholeness of our society and our university’s aim to advance racial equity and antiracism.

Although we remain physically distanced, there are several avenues for engagement across campus this month. For your convenience, we have compiled a list of Black History Month campus events, Honoring Black History, along with a few notable opportunities within the broader community, and resources for self-learning. We have compiled this list based on information we received thus far and will continue to update the website as we receive notice of additional events. If you or your department is hosting an event, please email the details to Marquinta Obomanu, ODI Executive Coordinator at Additionally, thanks to MarCom’s partnership, here are a few simple Zoom backgrounds you can consider using throughout the month.

In closing, we offer Amanda Gorman’s powerful exhortation and invite you into a month of self-examination and celebration of Black lives:  

For there is always light
if only we’re brave enough to see it
if only we’re brave enough to be it

(from “The Hill We Climb”)

In solidarity,

Professor Natasha Martin, J.D.
Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion

Stephen V. Sundborg, S.J.