Black History Month is important to T’Kayla Backer, an African American freshman at Eastern New Mexico University, it gives people credit for the work they have done and celebrates progress.
“It’s a lot like Hispanic Heritage Month,” Baker said, “It’s an opportunity to show that we did something that needs to be recognized, not just for people in my community, but everyone.”
According to ENMU’s website, Black History Month was first celebrated in 1926 but expanded to last the entire month of February in 1976. February was selected by Carter G. Woodson, an African American historian who lobbied for Black History Month’s establishment, because it encompassed Fredrick Douglass’ birthday.
“I never know what to say when people ask me where I’m from,” Baker said. Although she was born in Ohio, Baker was raised Gilbert, Arizona. Baker never found herself in diverse classrooms growing up, “I was usually the only dark-skinned person in the class.” The number one question Baker recalls being asked by other children was “’why is your skin so dark?’”
“The first time I was asked this, I was about six-year-old,” Baker said, “Of course I didn’t know a logical answer, so I began asking my mom questions.” Baker was born with beautiful curly hair, but she asked her mom to permanently straighten it so she could fit in with the other kids; “I chemically straightened my hair so I could have hair like everyone else.” However, Baker was over the game by the time she reached high school. Her junior year, Baker grew out her natural hair and “accepted [her] beautiful, dark skin.”
Unfortunately, Baker's diversity made her a target of bullying, “Kids would call me names,” Baker said. But she wouldn’t trade her experiences for anything as “It’s what made me so involved. It shaped me into the person I am today.”
Baker is inspired by her mom. “She has gone through more things than I can count on my ten fingers,” Baker said, “She was a single working parent of four children and she graduated with her bachelor’s degree after five years. She is working on her master’s now.”
ENMU attracted Baker because it wasn’t like any place she grew up in. “Everybody knew everybody,” Baker said of her high school, William’s Field High, “I wanted to meet people with different backgrounds.” While working towards a degree in psychology, Baker also runs track at ENMU, joining the team as a walk-on last fall, 2016.
Baker is now a thriving member of that community. “I love them,” Baker said, “My teammates are my best friends. They are a ton of fun and good to be around.”