WESTERVILLE — As the Delaware County commissioners recognized the month of February as Black History Month during their meeting Thursday, a flag to mark the occasion flew in a nearby city.
The American flag, state flag of Ohio, and the Westerville flag fly in front of Westerville City Hall year round. That’s typical of most municipalities. Westerville, however, also has different flags that fly during various months throughout the year.
The city’s website said it has instituted “a pilot program to recognize causes and initiatives that support individuals identifying as members of a protected class (as defined by the Equal Employment Opportunity Council),” which includes observance and representation with a flag. In addition, it has created a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) division “to build upon Westerville City Council and administration’s work in forming legislation and programs to promote a safe, inclusive community.” Westerville City Council passed equality legislation in 2019 that prevents discrimination and ethnic intimidation.
The tricolor Pan-African flag, designed in 1920 by the Jamaican activist Marcus Garvey, is what appears in the courtyard during the month of February. Its stripes are red, black and green to symbolize the blood shed for liberation, a black nation, and wealth.
Black History Month was created in 1926 by historian Carter G. Woodson, who noted that Abraham Lincoln (Feb. 12) and Frederick Douglass (Feb. 14) had their birthdays in the second week of the second month. Originally celebrated for a week, students and educators at Kent State University made the push in 1969 to recognize all of February as Black History Month. President Gerald Ford officially recognized Black History Month in 1976. For more information, visit blackhistorymonth.gov.
Delaware County and Westerville each play an important part in Black history, being busy stops on the Underground Railroad for slaves seeking freedom.
Black History Month isn’t the only four weeks with a flag in Westerville. During designated months, the DEI committee has selected the following official flags that can be found in the courtyard of City Hall: Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month (March), Celebrate Diversity Month (April), Older Americans Month (May), Pride Month (June), Independence Day (the American flag), Hispanic Heritage Month (September), Breast Cancer Awareness Month (October), and National Native American, American Indian and Alaskan Native Heritage Month (November).
The final approval of the flags is made by the Westerville City Manager’s Office. The city has bought and will maintain the flags.
The City of Westerville is known for putting up other interesting things along its streets, from its overflowing flowerpots in the summer to the silver star spanning the uptown during the holidays. Through next week, it is accepting applications for the Westerville Military Banner program, which hangs pictures of current and former armed forces members on street poles. The city does the military banners twice annually.
Gary Budzak may be reached at 740-413-0906 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak.