Black History Month | Faculty spotlight – Kim Byas

February 1 marks the beginning of Black History Month,  a time to commemorate and acknowledge the Black Americans who played a critical role in the founding and shaping of the United States. The relevance of February goes back to 1926 when noted historian Dr. Carter G. Woodson first established “Negro History Week.” He chose the second week in February because it included the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass—two men that are American symbols of freedom.

50 years after the first celebration of Negro history week, ASALH (Association for the Study of African American Life and History) recommended that the commemoration become a month-long celebration and was renamed Black History Month. Since 1976, every U.S. president has officially designated the month of February as Black History Month.

Every year there is a different theme determined by the ASALH. The theme for 2023 is Black Resistance, which explores how Black Americans have fought repression from America’s earliest days.

“This is a call to everyone, inside and outside the academy, to study the history of Black Americans’ responses to establish safe spaces, where Black life can be sustained, fortified, and respected.”

Union Institute & University is taking part in the celebration by spotlighting members of our faculty and staff.

Faculty spotlight | Kim Byas

Tell us about your role at Union.
I am the program director for the MS in Health Care Leadership program and the MS in Organizational Leadership program.  In addition, I am a professor in the EdD program where I teach HLTH 861: Social Determinants of Health.

Tell us about a moment in Black History that influenced or shaped your career/life.
Living in Birmingham, AL, my childhood friend was killed in 1963 when a racist planted a bomb in a local church and it exploded during Sunday school.  Soon afterward, and out of concern for my safety, my family left the city.

What does black history month mean to you?
There is so much that is NOT taught and shared in this country about structural racism. While using the month of February to recognize prominent and historical African Americans, I want to focus on finding solutions to structural racism that is killing people today.

Is there a Black leader, past or present, who inspires you, and why?
There are so many that I can mention. Suffice it to say, we need them more than ever today.

What advice do you have for people looking to start their careers or become a leader?
Be Strategic!