Cultural Heritage Months & Celebrations

September 15-October 15 | Hispanic Heritage Month

Hispanic Heritage Month Fun Facts

  • Hispanic Heritage Month starts on September 15th because this is around Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua’s independence days. It ends in October because October 15th is “Día de la Raza”, or “Day of the Race”, which is a day of celebrating the many nationalities present in Latin America.
  • Roughly one out of every five people in the US are Latino/a/x, making up for almost 20% of the population, and there are nearly 5 million Hispanic owned businesses in the US.
  • Latino/a/x inventions include the color tv, earthquake sensing technology, CAPTCHA, x-ray reflection microscopes, birth control pills, electric brakes, the submarine, and the first successful artificial heart.
  • Folks in our community identify in many ways, and the best policy is to ask how someone self-identifies. Here are a few names and what they mean. Hispanic: Ancestral heritage from a Spanish-speaking country. Latino/a/x: Ancestral heritage from a Latin American country. Chicano/a/x: Mexican ancestry and currently living in the US. Mestizo/a/x: Mixed Spaniard and Native American ancestry. Afro-Latino/a/x: Mixed Spaniard and African ancestry. Many may also identify with their country of ancestry, such as Mexican, Puerto Rican, and Columbian.
  • The “x” in Latinx is a way to be inclusive of those who are gender-neutral and non-binary. You may also see an “e”, as in Latine because the “e” is more linguistically heard than the “x” in the Spanish Language. Overall, both the “x” and the “e” are more readily used in academia rather than in common language.

Continued Learning

November | Native American Heritage Month

Indigenous Heritage Month Fun Facts

  • In 1916, Red Fox James, from Blackfeet Nation, rode horseback to gather endorsements to establish a day to honor Native Americans. This has since evolved to designating November as Native American Heritage month.
  • There are 574 federally recognized Indigenous tribes in the US, and many more that are not federally recognized. There are also approximately 175 Indigenous languages spoken in the US today.
  • Cable suspension bridges, rubber, kayaks, petroleum collection and extraction, raised-bed agriculture, baby bottles, syringes, and anesthetics all have roots in Native American design. Even the US Constitution was modeled after “The Great Law of Peace” which governed the Iroquois Confederacy.
  • Over 8597 construction, professional, scientific, and technical businesses in the US are Indigenous owned.
  • Native American, Native, and Indigenous are more respectful and preferred terms because American Native or Indian can hold oppressive and racist undertones. However, many may also prefer to be addressed by tribal affiliation, Indigenous community, or nation of people, such as Diné (Navajo), Lakota, etc.

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September | Ally Week

Mines oSTEM runs Ally Week activities typically during the last week of September, where Allies to the LGBTQ+ community on campus are celebrated and taught about what it means to be an Ally. Partner organizations include MEP, The Counseling Center, SAAVE, Mines Hillel, and other interested clubs and organizations, all of whom host tabling activities, informative discussions, and social events. Tabling activities include Smashing Stigmas, writing Letters to Allies, and handing out resources. In 2022, oSTEM co-hosted a discussion with Kickstart on “Allying against Transphobia”. Ally week always ends on Friday with an Ally Dinner.

Continued Learning

October | Halloween
  • My culture is not a costume: Cultural appropriation happens when people use cultural elements such as customs, clothing, hairstyles, language, food, or other norms from a marginalized identity they do not belong to in an exploitative, disrespectful, or stereotypical way. Halloween can be a time where communities are harmed by stereotypical depictions of their culture without thought to the significance of what they are portraying. Questions to consider:
    • Does my costume represent an ethnic/racial/cultural group that I do, or do not belong to?  
    • Has this group been historically oppressed within the larger context of the United States? 
    • Does my costume exploit, disrespect or stereotype a cultural group, or does it make others uncomfortable? 
  • 5 Simple Questions That’ll Help You Avoid Unintentional Cultural Appropriation: This article explores additional questions to ask if you are well intended but unsure what is ok or not ok when it comes to cultural appropriation. 
  • This Halloween: What Does It Mean To Call Something ‘Spooky’? This article explores the history of the term “spooky”, and the harmful racial undertones behind this word.
January | MLK Day Celebration

Fun Facts

  • Observed on the third Monday of January, MLK marks Revered Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. In celebration of this day, we acknowledge the nonviolent activism in the Civil Rights Movement protesting racial discrimination in the United States. 
  • MLK Day was first observed in 1986 by various states, but was officially observed by all 50 US states for the first time in 2000. 
  • Many people also celebrate with MLK Day of Service. This is a national challenge to Americans to celebrate through community service, volunteering, and citizen action in honor of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. To get involved, visit AmeriCorps MLK Day of Service.
  • Colorado School of Mines hosts the Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Luncheon the Tuesday after national MLK day to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy.

The 2023 luncheon featured speaker Nyadak Pal, Executive Director of the Nyadak Pal Peace Foundation. Nyadak Pal, native of Sudan (present-day South Sudan), came to the United States as a refugee in 1999 along with her family. Nyadak Pal is a 2017 graduate of Metropolitan State University of Denver, majoring in Africana Studies and Social Entrepreneurship. She is fluent in four languages: Nuer, Shiluk, Arabic and English. She is an educator and loves teaching History, Social Studies and African Traditional Culture. Dr. Pal received an Honorary Doctorate Degree from the Denver Institute of Urban Studies for her continual work on Peace Intervention for Young South Sudanese in America. She is the Founder and CEO of Nyadak Pal Original African Cocoa Butter. Dr. Pal is also the Founder and Executive Director of Nyadak Pal Peace Foundation (A Non-Profit) that concerns itself with Climate Resilience, Food Security, Youth Empowerment for Peace and working with and training South Sudanese girls in Social Entrepreneurial Skills and to give them hope for a new future. Dr. Pal has two lovely daughters, Benny who is 15 years old and Mina who is 8. Dr. Pal strongly believes that “If you educate a woman, you will educate a nation”.


February | African American & Black History Month

Black History Fun Facts

  • Originally a week-long celebration founded in 1926 by Dr. Carter G Woodson (an African American historian who graduated from Harvard with a PhD), the celebration of contributions from African Americans moved to a month-long designation in 1976 after students demanded this and the establishment of Black studies in universities.
  • Dr. Carter G Woodson chose to celebrate Black History Month in February because Frederick Douglas and Abraham Lincoln were both born in February.
  • ASALH, founded by Dr. Carter G Woodson, picks a yearly theme for Black History Month. The 2023 theme is Celebrating Black Resistance. “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.”
  • John Chavis is the first known African American to receive a college degree in the United States in 1799. In 1876, Edward A. Bouchet was the first African American to earn a PhD in the US, awarded in Physics from Yale University. Georgiana Simpson was the first African American woman to earn a PhD in the US in 1921.
  • Mary Van Brittan Brown invented home security systems. Elijah McCoy invented a device allowing machines in motion to remain oiled. Other Black inventions include the color IBM PC monitor, carbon light bulb filament, three-light traffic signal, refrigerated trucks, automatic elevator doors, CAD/CAM software, electrical railway signaling systems, laser treatment for cataracts, the super-soaker, clothes dryers, and gas heating furnaces.
  • Bayard Rustin was an openly gay Black man who closely advised Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on nonviolent civil resistance tactics. Rustin was instrumental in the March on Washington, but due to the criticism over his sexuality, was kept out of public eye. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013.
  • Benjamin Banneker taught himself astronomy and math and began publishing almanacs from 1792 through 1797, which included astronomical calculations, weather predictions and tide tables, as well as poetry and writing on literature, medicine, and politics.
  • W.E.B. Du Bois created a series of infographics to explain institutionalized racism to the world, and most important to African Americans who were denied formal education. They show how many social problems compound to an oppressive African diaspora in America in visually beautiful and easy to understand data portraits. A compilation can be found in Data Portraits: Visualizing Black America.

Continued Learning

  • Black History Month: The Library of Congress, National Archives and Records Administration, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
  • Association for the Study of African American Life and History: Origins of Black History Month
  • Black Lives Matter
March | Women's Herstory Month

Women’s Herstory Month is a time to celebrate the contributions and achievements women have made throughout American history. This is a time to reflect on the brave and courageous acts of women who have laid the pathway towards opportunities and freedoms that they have today.

Women’s Herstory Month Fun Facts

  • The first Women’s History Day was held February 28, 1909. This day celebrated the one-year anniversary of the garment workers’ strikes when 15,000 women marched through lower Manhattan where immigrant women who worked in garment factories protested inhumane working conditions. In 1987, female activists lobbied Congress to declare March as Women’s History Month.
  • Each Women’s History Month has a theme. The 2023 theme is Celebrating Women Who Tell Our Stories. “If we don’t tell our truth, who will?”
  • The 19th amendment did not give all women the right to vote. In 1920, women of color were still prohibited from voting. In 1924, Indigenous women born in the US were granted citizenship and allowed to vote, and in 1965 discriminatory tactics such as literacy tests were outlawed and all women were now allowed to vote.
  • More women are earning college degrees than men. 59% of women continue education after high school as compared to 50% of men. Women make up 28% of the current science and engineering workforce, and of this, 5% are women of color.
  • Dr. Marie M. Daly was the first African American woman to earn a PhD in chemistry in the U.S. She earned her doctorate from Columbia University in 1947 and devoted her life to research, education, and working as a biochemist.
  • Mary G. Ross was the first Native American female aerospace engineer. She worked for Lockheed and assisted in developing the plans for fly-by missions to Venus and Mars.
  • Dr. Gladys West was responsible for the mathematics that led to the invention of the Global Positioning System (GPS). She helped with outer space discoveries related to planets in the solar system as well as Earth.
  • Tu Youyou was the first Chinese woman to receive the Nobel Prize. She and two other scientists shared the Nobel in physiology or medicine for their discovery of the drugs that treat malaria. She is currently a pharmaceutical chemist.
  • Dr. Ellen Ochoa was the first Latina astronaut to explore outer space. She earned her PhD in electrical engineering. She has been to outer space four times, conducted research regarding the ozone layer and is also an inventor.

Continued Learning

May | Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month

Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month Fun Facts

  • Celebrated in May each year, Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month recognizes the challenges faced by Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, and Native Hawaiians and their vital contributions to the American story. The theme for this year is “Advancing Leaders Through Purpose-Driven Service.”
  • The month of May was chosen to commemorate the immigration of the first Japanese to the United States on May 7, 1843, and to mark the anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869. The majority of the workers who laid the tracks were Chinese immigrants.
  • The estimated number of Asian-owned businesses in the U. S. in 2019 was about 1 out of 10 or 581,200 or 10%.
  • Bibha Chowdhuri (b. 1913, d. 1991) was an Indian physicist who worked on particle physics and cosmic rays. The first Indian woman to earn a Ph.D. in physics, Chowdhuri demonstrated that the density of penetrating events is proportional to the total particle density of an extensive air shower.
  • Dato’ Dr Adeeba Kamarulzaman specializes in HIV/AIDS and established Malaysia’s Centre for Excellence for Research in AIDS in 2007. She was named the first Asian President of the International AIDS Society and the following year, she became a member of WHO’s Science Council.
  • Edgardo Gomez was born in the Philippines in 1938 and earned a Ph.D. in Marine biology from University of California, Berkeley. Gomez devoted his life to fighting to conserve marine resources in the Philippines and led the initiative of replanting corals. Edgardo Gomez is one of only 30 scientists to have received the National Scientist of the Philippines award.
  • Connie Chung, an Asian American of Chinese descent and the second woman to anchor a nightly newscast at a major U.S. broadcast network.
  • Wataru “Wat” Misaka, an Asian American point guard of Japanese descent, who broke the color barrier in pro basketball by becoming the first non-white player and the first player of Asian descent to play in the NBA.

Continued Learning

June | LGBTQIA2S+ Pride Month

LGBTQ+ Pride Month runs through the whole month of June. This month was chosen to honor the Stonewall Riots which began on June 28th 1969 – a major turning point for the Gay Liberation movement in the U.S. Throughout this month, many cities host Pride parades and other large events to celebrate being queer and to pay tribute to those who fought for their rights and demanded legal change. The first recognized Pride Week march occurred on the anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising in 1970, and the tradition has continued since. Mines oSTEM will organize groups to attend Denver Pride events such as the Pride Fest, Parade, and 5k.

Continued Learning