Black History Month (also known as African American History Month) is an annual celebration of triumphs and struggles by African Americans as well as a time to recognize their prominent role in U.S. history.
The tradition was started in 1926 when Historian Carter G. Woodson and minister Jesse E. Moorland sponsored a week to celebrate, choosing the second week of February to coincide with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. Since 1976, Black History Month has been officially designated by U.S. presidents.
Throughout the month of February Piedmont Community College (PCC) is interviewing Black and African American students, employees, and administrators to ask about their work at PCC, their heritage, notable moments in Black and African American history, and their honest perspectives on living life as a Black individual.
Then on February 24, PCC will host Mr. Bertrend Poole as a guest speaker on the theme of “Dreaming While Being Black.” Tiffany Skouby, PCC’s Director of Student Engagement said that the College’s Student Government Association (SGA) wanted to have a deeper conversation about history and open a dialogue to learn more about the perspective of Black individuals.
When PCC’s SGA discussed why it was important to tackle a topic during Black History Month, they analyzed what it meant to be educated about the current state of the world, America, and our local communities. Then they dove deeper into what it meant to be educated in a sense of the privilege, or lack thereof, to have a degree or goals as a Black or African American individual.
“When we started talking about the speaker series, SGA President Terri Royster got excited when discussing the theme and said, ‘I know the right person for this’,” Skouby said. “She knew Mr. Poole and talked highly of her experiences with him including how he started a Men of Distinction club, which correlates with PCC’s Male Minority Success Initiative.”
Poole is a Person County native and a graduate of Person Senior High School. For the last 25 years he has worked at Southern Middle School as the In-school Suspension (ISS) Coordinator where he tolerates no-nonsense from the students, but he also believes in helping these students succeed.
This is where the idea for his Men of Distinction program began. It reflects his passion for teaching while guiding pre-teen and teenage boys to be upstanding and respectful young men. This club teaches life lessons, leadership skills, and also helps the members become more social in a safe and encouraging environment.
“By the time students reach the 8th grade most have really bought into the program and changed their attitudes while showing growth academically and maturing into outstanding young men,” Poole said. “I want them to know that they can become successful in life and show them what it means to be a part of a brotherhood that does positive things despite what the streets try to tell them.”
Poole is more than an ISS Coordinator, club advisor, and President of the Person County Alumni Chapter of North Carolina A&T, where he serves as the Student Recruitment Chairperson; he also offers a perspective that can relate to students and/or enlighten them as he discusses “Dreaming while Being Black/Black and Educated.”
“We each have a dream inside us and despite the obstacles that we may face, whether it is the color of your skin or gender, you can accomplish your goals and those dreams can become reality,” Poole said. “It may take time, but if you have the sincere desire to make it in life, you can do it. Your faith and prayer can move mountains.”
PCC is celebrating Black History Month with Poole on Thursday, February 24 from 2-3 p.m. in the D101 Auditorium on the College’s Person County Campus. The event is open to the public and refreshments will be provided.