Heritage Months

Heritage Months are periods within the year that are designated to celebrate and acknowledge various ethnic and marginalized groups. These are times not only to celebrate, but also to educate others on various groups' histories and contributions to American History. 

Over time we will be building out information for Heritage Months recognized by Facilities. We will explore both tangible and intangible contributions including creative expression such as music, historical events, language, food and more.   

If you are interested in helping to develop Heritage Month content and activities, contact the DEI council at facilities-dei@northwestern.edu.

Black History Month (Feb)

While 2020, has been a challenging year for all, Black Americans have experienced a disproportionate percentage of deaths and job losses caused by Covid-19, police brutality and race-based attacks. The killing of George Floyd sparked a period of collective reckoning — one that prompted widespread protests, a call for racial justice and a re-examination of the education system’s failure to teach the accurate history of Black and Indigenous people. The country also saw hope for inclusion, with the election of its first Black, South Asian, female vice president, a woman and a graduate of a historically Black university, and Georgia sending its first Black senator to the Capitol.

James Baldwin stated, “People are trapped in history and history is trapped in them.” Our history is relevant for understanding and implementing true change for the better. Accordingly, we wanted to share some information regarding the history behind the creation of Black History Month, provide some historical context of the systematic racism that continues to have an impact on the Black experience in the US, as well as highlight some key accomplishments of African-Americans that have had a positive impact on all of us. In closing, we wanted to share Amanda Gorman’s inauguration poem, The Hill We Climb. While many of us have heard it already, it’s worth listening to again for the hope she invokes for us as a nation. 

Women's History Month (March)

Women’s Center celebration is part of its month events to honor Women's History Month, which first began as National Women’s Week in 1980.  More information about the vital role of women in American history and why we celebrate Women’s History Month can be found here.

As American history often does not incorporate the complete story of our country, the achievements and history of marginalized groups in the United States have been overlooked in textbooks, the media, and society as a whole. Heritage month celebrations such as Asian Pacific Heritage, Black Heritage, and LGBTQ Pride Month are important in providing the space to teach and learn about the cultural history of marginalized groups, and also to examine the way in which these cultures are viewed within American discourse. Cultural heritage months seek to help remediate that oversight and give oppressed and marginalized communities more recognition. As a Council, we have agreed to proactively acknowledge the heritage months designated by Northwestern's Office of Diversity & Inclusion and contributions made by all groups represented by Facilities and Northwestern staff, students, and faculty.

Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month (May)

When thinking of the broader sense of the Asian Pacific America story, it is one that spans two continents and a constellation of islands that have been brought together through migration, exchange and competition of people and ideals. It is a story of a vibrant, diverse, and resilient set of communities that have been a part of American history for over 200 years.

This month we celebrate the cultural and historical contributions AAPI individuals and communities have made to the United States but we would be remiss if we did not mention a few milestones for Asian Americans just this past year. Politics took center stage with so many Asian American hopefuls running for elected positions, one of whom broke glass ceilings for so many when Kamala Harris was elected the first Black South-Asian female vice president. In film, Steven Yuen, became the first Asian American (South Korean-American) actor to be nominated for best actor for his role in Minari and in Raya and The Last Dragon, young children watched in awe as they saw themselves represented on TV. Without even having the largest Asian communities in our country, Illinois is paving the way to teach Asian American History in public schools by trying to pass the TEEACH Act, now on its way to the state senate.

Even with so much to celebrate and take pride in this year, the month has taken on a much more somber spirit as so many communities are filled with fear, mourning, and outrage. As the world still continues to feel the pandemic’s rippling effects and devastating losses throughout society, an emboldened anti-Asian sentiment has begun to sweep throughout this nation. This is despite the fact that Asian Americans are overrepresented on the front lines fighting COVID-19, even here in Chicago, revealing long-standing and often unacknowledged racist inequalities and inequities. Hate crimes, from verbal assaults to mass causality incidents, have seen a drastic increase in rates against Asian Americans and those of Asian descent, devastating their communities to their core.  We implore everyone to visit and share the STOP AAPI HATE site to help stop such senseless hate crimes.

This Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month is not only an opportunity for us to acknowledge and openly discuss the very real racism and inequities faced by AAPI communities (We Are Not a Stereotype) but to also stand together in solidarity to learn from, give strength to and celebrate with, so every Asian American and Pacific Islander can also stand with pride. We encourage everyone to learn about AAPI Heritage Month (AAPI Month, Smithsonian), maybe take some time to learn of the greatest contributions made throughout history (Groundbreaking Contributions), listen to some of their real stories (Asian America, Self-Evident, Asian Enough), and celebrate AAPI Heritage Month throughout Chicago (How to celebrate).

LGBTQ Pride Month (June)

Celebrations of Pride Month, Pride parades and Pride marches actually originated in honoring the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots and the ensuing protests and demonstrations that represented a struggle for civil rights of the LGBTQ+ community. President Joseph R. Biden expressed it best when he said, “The uprising at the Stonewall Inn in June, 1969, sparked a liberation movement — a call to action that continues to inspire us to live up to our Nation’s promise of equality, liberty, and justice for all.  Pride is a time to recall the trials the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ+) community has endured and to rejoice in the triumphs of trailblazing individuals who have bravely fought — and continue to fight — for full equality.  Pride is both a jubilant communal celebration of visibility and a personal celebration of self-worth and dignity.  This Pride Month, we recognize the valuable contributions of LGBTQ+ individuals across America, and we reaffirm our commitment to standing in solidarity with LGBTQ+ Americans in their ongoing struggle against discrimination and injustice.”

In the following years, the anniversary of the Stonewall riots was marked by demonstrations that turned to celebrations, and ultimately the manifestation of Pride Month as we know it today.  The parades and demonstrations were not only about the coming together of the LGBTQ+ community and allies, but the parades and demonstrations also brought about change. Today members of the LGBTQ+ community can marry (In a landmark 5-4 decision in the supreme court) and legally adopt children in all 50 states.

Pride is a truly a time for celebration and acceptance – Happy Pride!

*There are many events and historical figures that have paved the way to our current reality that we could not highlight here for the sake of brevity. For more information and additional history, please feel free to explore these resources: Human Rights Campaign| L.G.B.T. Figures | History: Gay Rights in America / Milestone Fast Facts

View the Facilities Points of Pride gallery to see those Facilities members whom either identify or support the LGBTQ community.

Latinx/ Hispanic Month (September)

En Español

Latinx Heritage Month celebrates people of Latin American origin, encompassing over 20 countries. With this diversity of background and country of origin, Latinx Heritage Month honors a rich array of cultures that Latinx Americans bring to the United States, from art to science to music to history and more. Latinx Americans are one of the fasting growing populations in this country, making up almost 30 percent of the greater Chicago area. Chicago is a hub for Latinx culture, hosting the Museum of Mexican Art and the Little Village neighborhood, known as “the Mexico of the Midwest.” Latinx people throughout the city have a rich history of political activism, from “Cha Cha” Jimenez’s fights against gentrification in Lincoln Park in the 1970s, to the labor activism of Rudy Lozano, to his niece Tanya Lozano’s current community health organizing through Healthy Hood Chicago

It is essential to acknowledge this country’s history of racism and Latinophobia as well – in the present day, much of this is rooted in anti-immigrant sentiments following a decade of increasing deportation and family separation at the U.S. border with Mexico. As we honor the innumerable and vast contributions of Latinx community members, we must better welcome and lift Latinx communities. 

Latinx Heritage Month begins on September 15th, the anniversary of independence for Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and El Salvador. Mexican Independence Day is celebrated on September 16th and Chile recognizes theirs on September 18th. Though this heritage once was a week-long commemoration of people of Hispanic origin in the U.S., it now reaches from September 15th - October 15th, and is often referred to as Latinx Heritage Month, a newer term that includes people from many countries of origins and genders. 

Celebrate this month by engaging with content by Latinx people, from books to podcasts, some of which present an opportunity to brush up on your language skills, such as News in Slow Spanish. Whether you prefer fiction or memoir, immersing yourself in the lived experience of another person is a great way to gain fresh perspectives. Be sure to support local Latinx-owned shops, in-person or online. Research restaurants in your area that serve treats such as Colombian empanadas, Honduran pupusas, or Mexican sweet bread. Spend your weekends visiting museums that highlight Latinx culture. Chicago boasts the National Museum of Mexican Art and the National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts & Culture. Many museums offer online exhibitions as well as events that showcase less-explored aspects of the Latinx diaspora, such as this streaming Smithsonian talk on "the tangible connections between baseball and Latino culinary traditions." Take some time to consider how you would like to celebrate Latinx Heritage Month. Feliz mes de la herencia hispana!

Native American Heritage Month (November)

November marks the celebration of Native American and Indigenous Heritage Month, a time to commemorate the diverse cultures, traditions, and histories of Indigenous Peoples. There are 574 sovereign Native Nations located throughout the United States, each with unique identities, history, culture, government, and language. Northwestern honors the traditional homelands of the people of the Council of Three Fires, the Ojibwe, Potawatomi, and Odawa as well as the Menominee, Miami and Ho-Chunk nations upon which the University now sits through our land acknowledgement statement.

These statements have been used by Native communities and non-Native people to acknowledge the Indigenous Peoples whose ancestors are the original stewards of the land. Due to centuries of displacement and colonialism, most Native Peoples in the United States were pushed from the lands they originally lived upon. Land acknowledgement statements identify and honor the current and ancestral ties Native communities, families, and individuals have to their homelands and is an important first step to decolonization. (Source).

There are many ways to participate in Native American and Indigenous Heritage Month. Multicultural Student Affairs offers 30 Days of Indigenous, a month-long series packed with opportunities to engage, learn, and build community around this Heritage Month. Included in this list is a link to Only the Mountains, a documentary film focusing on the Sand Creek Massacre which remains one of the worst atrocities committed by US soldiers in history and Northwestern founder John Evans’ involvement. You can also view the work of the 2021 Indigenous Artist-in-Residence for the Center For Native American and Indigenous Research, Wayne Valliere /Mino-giizhig (Lac du Flambeau Ojibwe), who constructed a traditional birch bark canoe and shared in a ceremonial launch on Lake Michigan. Between the Chicago American Indian Center and the Mitchell Museum of the American Indian in Evanston, there are ample opportunities to honor Indigenous communities.

It is also essential to recognize the steps our community needs to take towards progress.  Vandalism took place at the Rock following the celebration of Native American Heritage Month designed by Northwestern's Native American and Indigenous Student Alliance (NAISA) in 2021. Please view the article in The Daily and the university leadership's message to the community. This incident offers us an opportunity to contemplate how we show up and embody our organizational value of Respect: Honoring the differences and contributions of our diverse community, engaging with one another with dignity and civility.

We invite you to reflect on this and take some time to consider how you will expand your awareness of Native American and Indigenous heritage.