Oberlin Blogs

Legacy, Heritage and Love

February 20, 2015

Alexandria Cunningham ’16

Each year February is a particularly reflective month for me because, yes, it is still the beginning of the year, but it is also Black History Month. During this time, many people of the African diaspora take stock of Black transnational struggle and history and celebrate it. The month's twenty-eight days pay homage to a diverse Black community by affirming the beauty, talent, intellect, sacrifice and narrative that comes out of communities of African descent.

Black History Month, personally, is a reset time for me to refocus my energy on my community and family. The eve of February brings flutters to my heart as I look at my family, friends, professors and classmates and am reminded of how beautiful their blackness is. I am forced to acknowledge how, though I should (and actually do!) appreciate everything about them daily, this month I have calls me to see the power I ignite within myself within my community members. We exchange stories of hardship and struggle but we also talk about love and community. I know those moments have made me proud to be a young, Black woman who actively celebrates her heritage each day.

As I spend this Black History Month away from home, campus and the U.S. altogether (I'm currently in London, England, on the Danenberg Oberlin-in-London Program), I challenge myself to reflect on what community means. From the simple who is my support system while abroad to the more existential how do I engage in the work of Black struggle from where I am--I am finding the process of where I locate myself within my community.

A spray-painted sign near the University of London that reads "Rest in Peace Mike Brown. London stands with #Ferguson."


It strangely just hit me that I do a great deal for my Africana community on campus as one of the co-chairs for ABUSUA, our Black Student Union, and as a member of Sister of the Yams (SOY), an Africana group for Black womyn. Moreover, as a friend, a sister, a mentor, a confidant, partner-in-crime, a ride-or-live and a woman who has found family on campus, I do all that I do willingly and lovingly. That is not to say it is not a stressful job (it certainly is), but it is to say that I would do it all a thousand times over for people I love.

Whilst in London, I notice my incessant search for threads of Black cultural life and my insistence on bringing my knowledge of it to all of my courses. By no means is this an accident; I carry my identities with me everywhere. Just as black ink seeps on white paper to give it both meaning and worth, my Blackness exudes a narrative that is necessary to the white-dominated spaces it finds itself controlled by. When I speak about my heritage and history, my ancestors hear me and they cry out in joy. I believe in their presence and I feel them pushing me every day in struggle, success and failure.

Black History Month is more than twenty-eight days and its purpose needs to be affirmed daily. It is not limited to one month and is certainly not separate from American history, it is World history, actually. Black History Month is an accumulation of legacy, heritage and love coming from African diasporic communities who have struggled, fought and died trying to survive.

The Buxton Memorial Fountain celebrating the emancipation of slaves in the British Empire in 1834. Victoria Tower Gardens, Westminster, London.


The plaque of Buxton Memorial Fountain.



As the descendant and living testament of my ancestors' legacies, I am thankful for every day that I get to contribute to Black History. Though I am far from doing anything publicly commemorative (e.g. social movements or policy, etc.), my individual love is a part of my legacy. My time at Oberlin demonstrates my connection and love for my community and I am going to celebrate this every day I take a breath.

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