Text: Naomi Shimada
Photography: Stephen Thomas-Dorin
For Catherine Mondoa, black history is incredibly important. Both of her parents are Cameroonian immigrants, and, though she grew up in Maryland, she has strong cultural ties to Cameroon.
“I’ve never been to Cameroon unfortunately; the closest I got was to Nigeria. However, my parents tried to instill as much of the culture into me as possible. It was strange being an African kid at home and a black American kid everywhere else. It’s made me good at culture switching and finding compromise, but it’s taken a lot to find balance and understand who and what I am as a function of both cultures.”
Mondoa is currently a junior majoring in Material Science and Engineering with minors in Innovation and Entrepreneurship and Biomedical Engineering. Mondoa chose her major because she likes discovering the answers to her “random questions” about why things work as they do. It also fits with her personality, she loves learning about different perspectives and experiences.
“I love to watch movies, and I love when people show me music that they enjoy, that makes them feel. I’m very behind on movies lol, and music is constantly expanding and changing.”
Mondoa’s parents came to the United States and built a life for Mondoa and her sisters. Mondoa still feels connected to her culture, though she’s never met all of her family.
“I have an extensive family around the world who try to visit as often as possible, but there are many members of my family who I’ve never met.”
Mondoa is a part of the SPIRIT Fashion show because it excites her. She loves meeting a diverse network of people and watching people’s ideas become tangible things and being a part of their creative vision.
“I feel proud that I get to wear someone’s original piece and showcase their vision to a larger audience. It’s really cool being part of this event, and since joining the team, I’ve gotten to know some pretty incredible people. I couldn’t imagine not having this as part of my CMU experience.”
When asked why black history is important, Mondoa says that it’s a way to track our growth and a way to look forward to the future.
“Black history is important because it is a reminder that we have roots that extend deep and wide. Without knowing our present in the context of our past, it’s hard to track our progression and, to an extent, to strive for forward movement. Black people have been kept low because our contributions, our pain, our joy, our experience were diminished purposefully and insidiously. Black history isn’t told as part of the cohesive story that is history. We’ve been on this earth as long if not longer than any race. We too have stories, and we are entitled to learn about, pass on, and grow from our history.”
Mondoa believes that there are several steps that communities can take to educate people about black history.
“The first step is to educate students about the contributions of black people as part of the general flow of history courses. Black history month should not be the only designated time to learn about the experiences of black people through the ages. In addition, we need to be more frank about the treatment of black people through the ages. For example, everyone loves discussing the Roaring 20’s and the technological advances made during the early 20th century, but we don’t talk about the destruction of Black Wall Street in one of the largest race riots in American history. We skip over the unpleasant parts of history in favor of what’s “most relevant.””