JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, VA.
Negro History Week was established in 1926 by the Study of Negro Life and History, which then evolved to Black History Month in the 1960’s and officially decreed a national observance in 1976 by United States President Gerald Ford.
“In celebrating Black History Month,” Ford said in his address to the nation. “We can seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”
Now, members of the Langley African-American Heritage Council are helping to further evolve Black History Month through a program called African-American Heritage 365 which aims to educate the public on black history over the course of the entire year. Thereby ensuring that learning about black history is no longer limited to something that mainly occurs during February.
U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Lashawn Smith, 15th Intelligence Squadron target systems analyst, along with the other members sought to change how black history is taught in schools. With a history minor, Smith often goes above and beyond to bring unknown black history knowledge to light.
“Being the historian for this organization, I have learned so much more about our history that I didn’t know before,” Smith said. “Our purpose is to broaden the education of African-American history for schools.”
African-American Heritage 365 addresses the need for an improved curriculum around the state of Virginia by working in conjunction with schools to help offer their expertise regarding African-American history.
Smith’s love of history was not something that happened over night. From a young age, Smith’s mother help to instill that thirst for knowledge of black history, introducing her to historical figures that are not traditionally learned about in schools.
“My mother was an avid reader and we had a huge library of books at the house,” Smith said. “She would encourage me to do little things like watching the movie Glory and that’s how I ended up getting into black history.”
According to Smith, this program has helped her to spread knowledge not only to children around the state of Virginia, but to her own daughter as well.
“My daughter enjoys learning about this history with me,” Smith said. “My job is to ensure that she is educated in not just history in general, but in our history. I may not know it all but I want to teach her what I do know.”
According to Smith, she is glad her parents went through some of the experiences that they did. If they didn’t, Smith feels she wouldn’t be the person that she is today.
In this day and age, finding information can be as simple as the type of a key or the turn of a page. Helping to rewrite the narrative for future generations attempting to turn this information into knowledge is more possible thanks to people like Smith and the African-American Heritage 365 program.