A Message from President Aceves

Dear Colleagues,

As we enter mid-February, I want to acknowledge the importance of Black History Month and the valuable contributions of the Black community. As a higher education institution, we have the important responsibility to be in conversation about the hard truths of the past to bring forth a more hope-filled future. 
At the start of the school year, One Book, One Regis served as a unifying opportunity that included a visit from Dr. Griffin, Professor of English and Comparative Literature and African American Studies at Columbia University, where she also served as the inaugural Chair of the African American and African Diaspora Studies. Her time on campus brought to life her book, “Read Until You Understand,” where she reflected on issues of rage, freedom, and justice. 

I recently asked Dr. Wilcots, Vice President for Student Affairs, to reflect on Black History Month. Here is what she thoughtfully shared.
“At the start of the academic year, the First Year Experience and the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusive Excellence hosted a special Good Trouble Conversation, “More Than a Month,” that asked whether the heritage months celebrated in America are relevant, necessary, sufficient. As we settle into the middle of Black History Month, my response to those questions come readily, easily. While my answers are the same for all heritage months, I focus on the moment at hand. Yes, Black History Month is more than relevant; it is poignant. Yes, Black History Month is more than necessary; it is crucial. No, a month is not sufficient; it is woefully inadequate. Naturally, these answers raise more questions. Why was Black History Month created, and why is it needed more than ever right now? 
Historian Carter G. Woodson’s idea of a national celebration of Black history dates to 1915, when he participated in a national recognition of the 50th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. Woodson recognized that African American children were not being taught about the history or the achievements of their people. He firmly believed that a people without a recorded history was doomed to obscurity, and he hoped that celebrating accomplishments would inspire new and greater achievement. He was keenly aware of an American past when Black children were denied an education, particularly knowledge of their own heritage. The first national Negro History Week was celebrated in 1926, but it wasn’t until 1976 that President Gerald Ford officially recognized Black History Month. Since 1976, every U.S. president has formally designated February as Black History Month, and the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) has identified a special theme. This year’s theme is “Black Resistance.” 
As I reflect on the history of Black oppression and resistance in this country, I visualize the constellation of social justice movements with similar aims. I see also the shared patterns of resistance, endurance, and influence. I note the solidarity and the shared insistent demand to expand the meaning and enactment of American democracy. When all that we hold dear as a democracy is at risk, when we as a nation are backsliding into open racial hostility, now is the time to teach our children about the past that both separates and binds us.” 
I am grateful to Dr. Wilcots for her reflection. I hold reverence for the rich and untold treasure of Black History that needs to be shared. Permit me to accompany you, in creating a new history, rooted in our shared human dignity that must be upheld and promoted. Let’s be present and engaged, in our Jesuit tradition of being companions in the Lord, as we seek to build a more just and humane world.  

Salvador D. Aceves, Ed.D