MANKATO, Minn. (KEYC) — Every year, Black History Month is given a theme by the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH).
With 2020 marking the centennial of the 19th Amendment, and the sesquicentennial of the 15th Amendment, this year’s theme is Africans and the Right to Vote.
Both amendments prohibit the state and federal governments from restricting the right to vote on the basis of sex or race, respectively.
Minnesota State University, Mankato is hosting its 44th annual Pan African Conference on Thursday, Feb. 27, and Friday, Feb. 28, to discuss exactly what’s important about voting laws and voters’ rights.
A right that is notoriously prone to neglect.
“We really have gone through a lot and there’s a lot of barriers for people of color and now that we do have the opportunity to vote, a lot of us aren’t taking advantage of it,” second-year student Bola Ogunlana said.
Beyond that, the conference will discuss reasons that currently hinder the African American vote.
“We’re examining the different ways that we’ve been discouraged from voting and not allowed to vote. So, this could be through gerrymandering, it could also be through things like literacy tests and, also, felon voting rights,” Ogunlana added.
To encourage voting, leaders stress voting for local officials as a way to see a difference within your respective community.
“We only think about it on a presidential level, but there’s so many more levels that create change that change communities and support communities and have an impact,” explained Kenneth Reid, director of African American & Multicultural Affairs at Minnesota State University, Mankato.
While enlightening people, Black History Month also shines a spotlight on the achievements of African Americans.
“Things that we kind of take advantage of, like the stoplight and the iron and ice cream. Black people invented those. So, just celebrating people who don’t necessarily always get the recognition they deserve,” second-year student Leah Cox said.
“Being able to be unapologetically black and not feel like I have to dim my light and I’m able to show black excellence,” Ogunlana commented.
The ASALH announced that “The Black Family: Representation, Identity, and Diversity” will be the theme for Black History Month 2021.