HERITAGE MONTHS AND COLLABORATIONS
The University of Illinois Springfield and the Office of Access and Equal Opportunities and the Diversity Center recognizes that we are pleased to have students on our campus from a wide variety of backgrounds and as such, we want to set aside time to recognize various heritage months each year.
Martin Luther King Day: A Day On, Not A Day Off
During the 1950s and ’60s, civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. recognized the power of service to strengthen communities and achieve common goals.
Initiated by Congress in 1994, King Day of Service builds on that that legacy by transforming the federal holiday honoring Dr. King into a national day of community service grounded in his teachings of nonviolence and social justice. The aim is to make the holiday a day ON, where people of all ages and backgrounds come together to improve lives, bridge social barriers, and move our nation closer to the “Beloved Community” that Dr. King envisioned.
In 1926, Dr. Carter G. Woodson instituted the first week-long celebration to raise awareness of African Americans’ contributions to history. Prior to this time, little information could be found regarding African American history. Important achievements were left out of history books, and there was a general misconception that African Americans had made little contribution to U.S. society or history. 50 years later, the week became a month, and today February is celebrated as African American History Month. The month of February was chosen because it celebrates the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, both of whom dramatically affected the lives of African Americans. Frederick Douglass (1817-1895) was a writer, lecturer, editor, and civil rights activist who escaped slavery at age 21 and went on to campaign for the abolition of slavery, establish a newspaper, and hold the office of Minister to Haiti. He was a major voice in the anti-slavery/civil rights movement of his time. Abraham Lincoln (born February 12, 1809), as the sixteenth president of the United States, issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, thereby declaring that all slaves within the Confederacy would be permanently free. Each year, the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, founded by Dr. Woodson, sets the theme for the month.
MARCH: National Women’s History Month
National Women’s History Month was established by presidential proclamation in order to draw attention to and improve the focus on women in historical studies. It began in New York City on March 8, 1857, when female textile workers marched in protest of unfair working conditions and unequal rights for women. It was one of the first organized strikes by working women, during which they called for a shorter work day and decent wages. Also on March 8, in 1908, women workers in the needle trades marched through New York City’s Lower East Side to protest child labor, sweatshop working conditions, and demand women’s suffrage. Beginning in 1910, March 8 became annually observed as International Women’s Day. Women’s History Week was instituted in 1978 in an effort to begin adding women’s history into educational curricula. In 1987, the National Women’s History Project successfully petitioned Congress to include all of March as a celebration of the economic, political and social contributions of women.
MAY: Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month (UIS celebrates April 18-22, 2016)
The roots of Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month can be traced back to 1976, when Jeanie Jew, president of the Organization of Chinese American Women, contacted government officials in response to the lack of Asian Pacific representation in the U.S. bicentennial celebrations that same year. The observance began in 1979 as Asian Heritage Week, established by congressional proclamation. In May 1990, the holiday was expanded further when President George Bush signed a proclamation making it month-long for that year. On October 23, 1992, Bush signed legislation designating May of every year Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month. The month of May was chosen to commemorate two significant events in history: the immigration of the first Japanese immigrants to the United States on May 7, 1843, and the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869 (Golden Spike Day). The diversity and common experiences of the many ethnic groups are celebrated during Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month with numerous community festivals as well as government-sponsored activities.
JUNE: Gay and Lesbian Pride Month (GCSU celebrates in April)
In recent years, gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) individuals did not have a specific month during which to celebrate and commemorate Pride Days in the United States. On June 11, 1999 President Clinton issued a proclamation designating June as Gay and Lesbian Pride Month. In the spirit of honoring equality and freedom, the president said, “I encourage all Americans to observe this month with appropriate programs, ceremonies, and activities that celebrate our diversity, and to remember throughout the year the gay and lesbian Americans whose many and varied contributions have enriched our national life.” The most significant June event in GLBT history was the Stonewall Inn Rebellion, a three-day protest in 1969 in New York City’s Greenwich Village during which patrons protested against unfair police discrimination and harassment. It marked the first time the gay community joined together to fight for its civil rights, earning national attention and gaining a foothold in the struggle for equality. This month is dedicated to appreciating the contributions and significance of the GLBT community, and applauding gay, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual, and transgender pride.
National Hispanic Heritage Month honors the culture, heritage, and contributions of Hispanic Americans each year. The event began in 1968 when Congress deemed the week including September 15 and 16 National Hispanic Heritage Week to celebrate the contributions and achievements of the diverse cultures within the Hispanic community. The dates were chosen to commemorate two key historic events: Independence Day, honoring the formal signing of the Act of Independence for Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua (September 15, 1821), and Mexico’s Independence Day, which denotes the beginning of the struggle against Spanish control (September 16, 1810). It was not until 1988 that the event was expanded to month-long period, which includes El Dia de la Raza on October 12, which celebrates the influences of the people who came after Christopher Columbus and the multicultural, multiethnic society that evolved as a result; Chile’s Independence Day on September 18 (El Dieciocho); and Belize’s Independence Day on September 21. Each year a different theme for the month is selected and a poster is created to reflect that theme.
NOVEMBER: National American Indian Heritage Month
In response to an effort by many to gain a day of recognition for the great influence American Indians have had upon the U.S., Congress designated a week of October to celebrate Native American Awareness Week in 1976. Yearly legislation was enacted to continue the tradition until August of 1990, when President Bush approved the designation of November as National American Indian Heritage Month. Each year a similar proclamation is issued. President Clinton noted in 1996, “Throughout our history, American Indian and Alaska Native peoples have been an integral part of the American character. Against all odds, America’s first peoples have endured, and they remain a vital cultural, political, social, and moral presence.” November is an appropriate month for the celebration because it is traditionally a time when many American Indians hold fall harvest and world-renewal ceremonies, powwows, dances, and various feasts. The holiday recognizes hundreds of different tribes and approximately 250 languages, and celebrates the history, tradition, and values of American Indians. National American Indian Heritage Month serves as a reminder of the positive effect native peoples have had on the cultural development and growth of the U.S., as well as the struggles and challenges they have faced.
Honoring Differences Calendar from ProGroup
Multicultural Calendar from International Training and Development
Multicultural Resource Calendar from Diversity Resources, Inc.