One Powerful Reason Why We Need Black History Month

February 6th 2016

Lucy Tiven

Actress and former Fox News contributor Stacey Dash set the internet ablaze when she voiced her disapproval of Black History Month and institutions devoted to diversity in media, in a January “Fox & Friends” segment.

“There shouldn’t be a Black History Month," Dash asserted. "We’re Americans, period. That’s it."

The actress failed to recognize that the experience of Black Americans differs greatly from that of white Americans. Unarmed black people were killed by police officers at 5 times the rate of unarmed whites In 2015 alone.

Police Brutality Deaths Chart

The Black Lives Matter Movement has called for criminal justice reform to address these tragedies as well as the everyday police brutality Black people have endured for jogging, wearing a bikini, and being a student while black. These are only a few of the injustices black Americans have experienced and continue to experience across the country.

Minn Black Lives Matter Protesters

As a tribute, let's remember those who won't be able to celebrate Black History Month this year.

1. Sandra Bland

Sandra Bland Bail

In August 2015, 28-year-old Sandra Bland was pulled over for failing to signal a lane change, in Waller County, Texas. Bland was arrested after being pulled over for "failing to pass an attitude test." Dash-cam footage showed her being forcefully pulled from her car and threatened with a stun gun during the routine traffic stop. She was found hanged in her jail cell three days later.

When she was arrested, Bland was en route to Texas to take a job as a student ambassador at Prairie View A&M University, her alma mater. She was also a supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement and posted about it frequently on social media.

Though the autopsy ruled Sandra Bland's death a suicide, her family and activists across the country found the death and investigation extremely suspicious, particularly after a dash cam video of the arrest was released online. Bland’s family filed lawsuits against the arresting officer, sheriff’s office, and state law enforcement agency.

sandra bland protest

Her friends and family also paint a very different picture. "She was someone who was extremely spontaneous, spunky, outgoing, truly filled with life and joy," Sharon Cooper, one of Bland's four sisters, said.

Attitude tests lead to arrests when someone doesn't "show the proper deference to the officer, and the officer used his power to impose his authority over them," criminal defense attorney John Hamasaki told ATTN:.

2. Freddie Gray

Freddie Gray

Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old Black man, died in Baltimore police custody on April 19, a week after he was arrested. Gray suffered from a fatal spinal injury and crushed voice box, after police pinned him to the ground and arrested him under suspicion of a weapons violation.

Freddie Gray arrest

Eight months before Gray's name became synonymous with the Black Lives Matter movement, he lost his brother to street violence. In the months leading up to his death, he was working to take care of his girlfriend and child and build a life for himself in Baltimore's Gilmor Homes neighborhood. Those who knew Gray spoke most about his sense of humor.

"He was so funny," Raheem Gaither told The Baltimore Sun. "Any time you're looking for a laugh, you're going straight to Freddie."

Though police say they found a knife on him, Gray's family has said it was of legal size. A police document also notes that Gray "fled unprovoked upon noticing police presence."

A video taken by a bystander's cell phone shows that Gray was screaming in immense visible pain when he was pushed into the van. He was denied medical help until 30 minutes into the ride in a police van.

"They had him folded up like he was a crab or a piece of origami," Witness Kevin Moore told The Baltimore Sun. "He was all bent up."

On May 1, State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby announced that her office had filed criminal charges for homicide, manslaughter, assault, and police misconduct against six Baltimore police officers involved in the arrest.

charged freddie gray

The New York Times' Alan Blinder tweeted a full list of the charges including a second-degree murder charge against Officer Caesar Goodson Jr.

The Department of Justice also opened a federal civil rights investigation into the case. The horrific manner in which Freddie Gray died alerted many people to the grotesque police cover-ups that too often follow deaths due to police brutality.

3. Walter Scott

Walter Scott

On April 4, 50-year-old Water L. Scott was shot to death by a white police officer after being stopped for a broken tail light.

A shocking video released by The New York Times shows former Charleston police officer Michael T. Slager firing eight shots at Scott's back. The officer alleged that Scott has tried to take his stun gun, which made him fear for his life.

Walter Scott and Cop

Scott spent his life serving in the Coast Guard and was the father of four children.

"He was outgoing — loved everybody, (was) very known in the community and got along with everybody," his brother Anthony Scott told CNN's Don Lemon. "All the family loves him, and his kids loved him."

Slager was fired by the department and indicted on murder charges; he faces only 30 years to life in prison, but will not receive the death penalty.

The Scott family and their attorney L. Chris Stewart thanked the person who came forward with the video in a press conference.

"I'm reassured that after seeing the video — that speaks for itself — that any person in this country no matter what race you are [can see] that's murder," Stewart said.

"What if there was no video?" The attorney asked. "What if there was no witness — or hero as I call him — to come forward?"

In October 2015, Scott's family reached a $6.5 million settlement with the city over a then-pending civil suit. Walter Scott's death led many people to call for body cameras on police officers.

Progress of the Black Lives Matter movement?


It's time to acknowledge exactly why Black History Month matters.

Posted by ATTN: on Saturday, February 6, 2016


The work of the Black Lives Matter movement and the deaths of Bland, Gray, Scott, and others have spread awareness about racism and police brutality, but there is still a lot work to be done. President Barack Obama has openly addressed racial inequalities in the criminal justice system and the Black Lives Matter movement has been a major issue among 2016 Democratic Primary candidates, but the fact remains that 102 unarmed black people were killed by police in 2015.


Actress and host Whoopie Goldberg slammed Stacey Dash for her comments on "The View."

"Yes, we are all Americans, but we’re not all treated like Americans," Goldberg fired back, "and one of the reasons that there is a BET is because networks wouldn’t take a lot of the shows that have an all-black cast. Unfortunately, we need things like BET."