• Aspen Lindblom

Celebrating Black Excellence: My Black History Month story


Black History Month is a federally recognized, nationwide day of observance and reflection , that calls on all Americans to remember the significant roles that African Americans have played in shaping our nation. The history behind Black History Month itself isn't as widely known, but is equally fascinating. Carter G. Woodson, known as the "Father of Black History," founded what would later become Black History Month as Negro History Week in February, 1926. He chose the month of February in honor of the birth month of Frederick Douglass and President Abraham Lincoln. [1] In 1976, President Gerald Ford expanded Negro History Week into Black History Month. President Ford urged Americans to "seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history." [2]


Reflecting on Black History Month brought me back to the days when I attended Savannah High School. In 1957, a historic group of students known as the Little Rock Nine integrated into Central High School. Four years later Savannah High School was founded, right in the middle of the Civil Rights Movement. The new school in Southern California decided on "Johnny Rebel", a Confederate soldier, as the school mascot. When I attended the school four decades later I had to endure walking down the halls of campus with a giant statue of Johnny Rebel holding a gun. I did not feel welcomed and lived in dread that one day, as one of the few black students, I would face racial discrimination or hate. Or worse.


I’m happy to report that the “Johnny Rebel” statue was removed in 2009 [3] and in 2017, 56% of the students voted in favor of making changes to the mascot during a school-wide vote, after researching the issue of Confederate monuments and holding discussion about the topic in classes. [4] Beginning in 2018, no other student of color would have to walk those halls and feel the weight of Johnny’s prejudiced, hateful gaze, every day they were at school.


2020 opened the country’s eyes to the systemic racism infecting our nation and the importance of raising awareness about it. It’s also the year that CyberDEI was formed, amidst the height of the BLM marches and the worldwide uprising of people in defense of Black lives everywhere. We recognized that the spaces we were currently occupying didn’t allow for the complicated intersectionality of diversity in tech. Yes, some of us might be women in tech, but being a Black woman in tech means something very different. That is why we formed a space where everyone can feel comfortable and included, a feeling many of us did not feel while growing up. As Dr. King said, "There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe nor politic nor popular, but he must take it because his conscience tells him it is right.” CyberDEI is a group of people with an enthusiastic, hard-coded belief in this philosophy. We stand for these ideals not just during Black History Month, but every day, and it is a battle we are proud to fight.


Aspen Lindblom is an Threat Analyst at CrowdStrike and the Vice President of CyberDEI. You can connect with Aspen at https://www.linkedin.com/in/aspenw/.


References:

[1] https://www.biography.com/scholar/carter-g-woodson

[2] https://africanamericanhistorymonth.gov/about/

[3] https://www.ocregister.com/2017/10/25/anaheims-savanna-high-students-vote-to-re-brand-their-johnny-rebel-mascot/

[4] https://www.ocregister.com/2017/11/06/anaheims-savanna-high-mascot-johnny-rebel-will-be-altered-to-eliminate-any-perception-of-confederacy-links/


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