By FRCC (Westminster) Sociology Club members and FRCC Students: Tiana Haussler, Janessa Gourdin, Miranda Lester, Garrett Spellman, and Maddie Stallman
The incorporation of Black History Month originated with a call to bring awareness and celebrate Black culture in 1926 by way of Carter G. Woods on the “father of Black history.” Kent State University in 1970 officially observed Black History month due to the diligent work by students, along with faculty and staff.
Recognizing the importance of student voices, it seems appropriate to offer up a conversation with two FRCC Black women students who reflect on what this month represents to them.
Black history is far more than just Martin Luther King Jr., Harriet Tubman, and Rosa Parks, but often it can come across as the only Black people who matter—at least in U.S. curricula and public view. That sentiment is one shared by both Tiana and Janessa. Being Black women attending Front Range as non-traditional students, they explain how common it is for them to feel unseen on campus and in the Westminster area, and how that’s not much different during Black History Month.
To start off, Tiana shares concerns about who gets represented during Black History month, “You know Martin Luther King, and you learn about his speech, but you don’t really learn about all of his other struggles. Similar with Rosa Parks. You don’t learn that she was an activist, you just hear about the bus scenario. You don’t learn about, you know, anything prior to that. You have to do that research on your own. So I feel like that was missing the most for me, and I do kind of have this feeling that you get bits and pieces: you get those talking points, but you don’t get the rest, because it’s just taught very briefly during February. It’s not taught, you know, year round.”
Tiana brings up the need for a more complex understanding of Black history that goes beyond a specific monthly recognition. Simultaneously, there is a need to also shift the focus of whose voices get heard. Janessa highlights the centrality of men of color, “I feel like there is more recognition of men still during this time of the month. I feel like there are major women of color, especially Rosa Parks, or Harriet Tubman that we hear about, but I feel like it’s more men’s faces, which is, you know, men were considered more of a human being—moreso than women were, you know.” Both Tiana and Janessa bring forth the need and the internal struggle that exists in wanting “to be recognized as a woman of color during Black History Month.”
One of the most important goals within the education system is for Black people to have accurate and year-round representation in all aspects of life. Janessa describes a recent conversation with her son, “My son is seven, and in second grade, and he came home and started talking about Martin Luther King… the fact that it only is occurring during this month is really upsetting, because that is a part of who he is; a part of who we are 24/7. So I don’t understand why we don’t have more representation.” Tiana follows up with a story about her son, “my son is in high school, and he told me, there are 27 Black students at his school. there are 1000s of other students, but there are only 27 Black students. So it’s important for those 27 students to feel seen every day, instead of it just being that 28 days in the month that you’re acknowledged. It’s nice for those 28 days, but wouldn’t it feel really nice for them to be visible every day, to see people that look like them all the time?” Janessa follows up by sharing that she would have benefited from a more representative education, “I feel like as an adult, it took a lot of work within myself
to accept myself as being a black woman of color, being just a woman of color in general, because I mean, we’re the minority, especially in Northglenn and Westminster. I feel like having representation at a younger age creates the ability for others not to struggle as I did personally as an adult.”
Front Range has made some effort to represent Black people this month, but it is still not enough. For example, there are several posters depicting Black people who have made significant contributions to history. However, the majority of them are men. Tiana points out, “I saw Nelson Mandela, I saw Martin Luther King, but we’ve heard their stories before. can it be different, can there be other people that we put up there and highlight, because a lot of times we put those same people up over and over instead of showcasing new people.” Janessa elaborates, “It’s based on comfort. It is a comfort thing. People don’t want to hear what makes them uncomfortable. There are so many other things that happened in Black history, but we’re not taught about them at all. The only people that we know are the ones getting continuously recycled, because their story is comfortable enough to be able to be shared. Martin Luther King is thought of as representing peace. In reality, Martin Luther King was a man that did more than just that. He didn’t just sit there and say that you need to be peaceful in order to make change. That’s where his story is utilized to change and invalidate the feelings and emotions that it is to be a person of color in society.” Tiana follows up with a point about long-term representation for all, “what will happen in March when it’s Women’s History Month? Will we see women of color showcased then during Women’s History Month?”
Along with expanding representation within schools, Janessa and Tiana also share the need to provide a more nuanced and comprehensive view of Blacks in mainstream media because as Tiana states, “I feel like there’s the pull yourself up by the bootstraps idea. A lot of people use [white] people in Hollywood to further the idea of if they can do it, then we [Black people] can do it too.” Yet, “we’re not the same. And our struggles aren’t the same, and our path isn’t the same. So we shouldn’t be compared. Everybody has their own struggles and their own identities. It’s nice to see that more [Black] creators are getting exposure, but it’s not indicative of what everyone goes through.”
What Tiana and Janessa are highlighting is the complicated relationship between a serious need for representation from everywhere in society and the challenges that come from that representation being short-lived or inaccurate. They underline posters up on campus are a great first step, but we must expand and add more representation of Black folks including women, queer, people with disabilities, and more. Everyone deserves to have a voice at all times. We must come to the realization that much of the representation that exists is tokenistic and can easily fade away in time. Representation should always be there, as Tiana explains in relation to the media, “where was this in January? Where was this in December? It goes back to the idea of, we see it, but for how long will we see it after Black History Month is over and the media is no longer pursuing an accolade and can therefore take away the token?”
Representation of any specific group should not be reserved for what Tiana refers to as “call on holidays” it must take place for everyone every day so that all people know the full stories of others like them, not just what a dominant group can cram into a brief designated time slot. After all, when there’s only a month dedicated to Black history, which is very much U.S. history, it’s
as if the contributions of African Americans are of little importance. Without their stories being taught, it is impossible to know America’s full history. Changing that takes giving a voice to those who otherwise might not be given one. There are steps the FRCC community can take to make this happen. To start, that means teaching Black history throughout the year, having people of color available as professors, and providing a student union where students of color feel comfortable, heard, and validated with others who share similar experiences. This would help others avoid situations like one Janessa experiences, “I have felt as though my words did not hold weight to that of my male counterparts, especially white males, so I just ended up not saying anything for some of the class. Sometimes that’s frustrating, because we have voices to share.”
Individuals have the responsibility to educate themselves; to learn on their own rather than relying on members of marginalized groups to teach. To that end, here are some places you can go to find out more about Black History.
This Friday, January 7th, marks the deadline for all FRCC students and staff to fill out the Vaccine Testing Form, so it’s worth answering some questions about the new policy. Initially, the Colorado Community College system did not mandate the vaccine for the 2021-2022 school year, because they wanted to avoid creating “barriers to educational pursuits, and serve all learners”, but on October 7th of 2021 the Chancellor of the Colorado Community College system, Joe Garcia, announced that, “Employees and students who work on campus, attend in-person classes, access support services, or participate in other activities at our colleges or system office will have the choice to provide results from regular COVID-19 testing or, alternatively, provide evidence that they are fully vaccinated.” He cited a desire to provide for the health and safety of FRCC students and staff as a top priority, and that the best way to do that while maintaining in-person classes was to mandate testing or vaccination. So what’s actually being mandated? There are three options for FRCC students. You can either provide proof of full vaccination, commit to getting tested weekly, or stay off-campus and take only remote/online courses. You must fill out the Vaccine/Testing Form by Friday, and commit to one of those three options, or you will be dropped from all classes. This applies to all students, even those only taking remote classes, and there is no medical or religious exemption available.
While FRCC is not committing to providing free testing, there is already free community testing in all communities which FRCC serves, and FRCC hopes to have free testing available at all campuses at some point. If you commit to getting tested but fail to do so, you will not be allowed to attend in-person classes at any FRCC campus until you can provide a negative test result. If you test positive, you must complete the COVID questionnaire, and the Dean of Student Affairs office will guide you through what to do next. Your first testing results must be submitted by January 13, 2022, and your tests must not be more than 72 hours old at the time of uploading. At-home tests will not be accepted, as there is no way to verify the date when they were taken. Instructors are not expected to make accommodations for students who miss class as a result of a failure to adhere to their testing agreement. Students who have already had COVID are exempt from the testing requirement for 90 days from their first positive test. This is based on CDC guidance and may change if the CDC guidance is updated.
For those who are providing proof of vaccination, there are still a few things you might want to know. Like, what vaccines are accepted? Any vaccine officially approved for use by the WHO will be accepted by FRCC. For now, there are ten: Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca, Covaxin, Sinopharm, Sinovac, Covishield, and Covovax, are all approved for use by the WHO and are accepted by FRCC. For the Pfizer & Moderna vaccines which require two shots, you need to have both shots to stay enrolled in your classes, and you need to wait at least two weeks after your second shot to attend class. If you think FRCC might already have your vaccination data, check your email inbox. If you got an email asking for you to fill out the form, then they don’t have your information, and you need to fill it out. For now, there is no requirement to get the booster shot, although FRCC does recommend it. If you have a medical or religious exemption to vaccination, then you will either have to get tested weekly or agree to take only online/remote courses.
If you’re planning on taking remote or online courses, you still need to fill out the form. On the form, you will be asked what your registration status is for the spring semester. If you plan on taking only online or remote classes, select that option. This will keep you enrolled in your classes, and you will not be required to provide proof of vaccination or test weekly. If you don’t fill out the form by Friday, you will be dropped from all classes, even online ones.
There is a lot of controversy around vaccine or testing mandates, and if you have a complaint, you can take it up with the Dean of Student Affairs at whatever campus you attend. Who knows, maybe you’ll convince them to change the requirement. But for now, if you’re attending any school within the Colorado Community College System, there are only three options: testing, vaccination, or online classes. Regardless of which one you pick, you must fill out the Vaccine/Testing form by January 7th, or you’ll be dropped from all your classes. Hopefully, the policy will help to keep students and staff at FRCC safe by reducing the spread of COVID-19.
I feel very fortunate to have worked for The FRCC Front Page through the last year and a half. My time at Front Range has been full of surprises (I mean, there is the whole pandemic thing that started shortly before I began taking classes in summer of 2020…), some more fun than others. This work study position, first as staff writer then as managing editor, has been one of the fun surprises.
Thank you to Mindy, Jonathan, and my fellow student workers who made this job a fun one. I would recommend anyone interested in writing work for the student newspaper. It’s a great way to develop solid writing skills and form connections with like-minded people.
Good luck to everyone and have a great end of the semester/winter break.
Since the arrival of COVID-19, many people were forced to shift their daily routines into a more remote friendly setting. Not only has COVID-19 impacted businesses, but it has also impacted the local community, including the students of FRCC Westminster. With the mandatory shutdowns, educational institutions scrambled to find an optimal way to continue to educate their students. These institutions turned to Zoom and Discord to connect students to professors. With these changes come a new set of benefits and drawbacks.
For most students, one of the benefits of remote education was that it was flexible with their schedules. Many students have part time jobs which can sometimes make the commute difficult. These recent changes have helped students save a lot of time. The biggest drawback noticed was the lack of social interaction amongst students. Due to these remote classes, it made it hard for students to build relationships with each other making a lot of them feel isolated.
“I like remote classes, but it was hard for me to make friends. I could see the benefits of it, but I prefer going to class in person,” stated one FRCC student. “It’s just easier to network that way and make friends with other people. I also felt like the classes were a bit harder. The lack of office hours made it feel like I had to do a lot of self-learning to understand the topics.”
“With remote classes you could get a lot more work done, but I can also see how a lot of students miss out on the social aspect of going to college,” stated another FRCC student.
This last year and a half have been very difficult for many people, with COVID-19 forcing schools to shift to remote learning and the many changes that have taken place. These college students have been faced with never-before-seen challenges. While there are benefits to remote learning, many students are forced to face the drawbacks as well. Although schools are finally beginning to open their doors for in person classes, it is difficult to imagine remote classes becoming obsolete. With the direction the future of education is heading in, it will most likely consist of a combination of both.