LIU Students Reflect on their Black Idols
Updated: Mar 1, 2021
By: AMAYA HENRY Staff Writer
Black History Month originated as the National Negro History Week during the second week of February, by historians Carter G. Woodson and civic leader Jesse E. Moorland in the early 1900’s. Black History Month is meant to be a month of celebrating the accomplishments of African-American people. That week was selected because it included both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass’ birthdays, who had immense impacts on the African-American community.
In time, National Negro History Week inspired communities nationwide to form their own celebrations, and by 1976, these celebrations officially became known as Black History Month. African-Americans have historically been overlooked and marginalized, and the month of February allows society to honor and recognize the achievements and contributions that they have made to society.
When asked who her African-American idol is, freshman Nyah Jackson answered, “I’d say Viola Davis right now, being that she is so successful in the field that I am entering into and has earned her way with her talent and dedication. Viola Davis always makes sure to advocate for other talented darker skinned Black women. She owns her power and her worth and expects others to do the same.”
Jackson also believes that Black History Month is important because, “...Black people are magical and we deserve the praise.”
Jackson is pursuing a degree in acting for theater, film, and television.
Freshman swimmer Trajan Houston said that without question his idol would be Dorothy Dandridge, the first Black woman to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress. He said, “Her experience speaks to me because of her incredible self-awareness in terms of her own struggle. Dorothy knew that the barriers that stood in the way of her acting career and success all had to do with the color of her skin.”
Houston was even able to recall a direct quote from Dandridge regarding the film that landed her Oscar nomination which was: “It was the best break I’ve ever had, but no producer ever knocked on my door. There just aren’t many parts for a black actress.” This quote was important to him because he felt that it embodied what Dandridge stood for and believed in.
Freshman swimmer Christina O’dwyer made a personal connection as she selected her mom, Stephanie O’dwyer as her idol. O’dwyer detailed that her mother is a hard-worker and has many qualities that she wants to have in herself.
Regarding the significance of the month, O’dwyer believes it is important because, “it recognizes us as a community and the things we have fought for.”
Junior Chelsie Denton without hesitation selected activist and novelist, James Baldwin. She stated that she selected him, “The way he viewed life was way ahead of his time- even now. His ideals strongly revolved around loving people as a whole, especially in the black community.”
As to why the month is important, Denton believes that it is empowering for the kids who need to see people that look like them in order to build their confidence and self love.
She also made the powerful assertion that since we learn about the amazing things that other races have done in history every day, Black History Month is a time when we can finally learn about our people’s triumphs and the setbacks we endure.
Denton referenced an impactful quote from Olivia Pope (played by Kerry Washington on the TV show Scandal) that says, “We have to work twice as hard to get half of what they get.” Yet by seeing how far we, as the African-American community, have come and knowing how hard we work in the background, is self-strengthening and self-assuring.
As Black History Month comes to a close, we continue to highlight all the admirable contributions and that African-Americans have bestowed in America.