Gerald and Ebony McCoy have four children, the oldest of which, Marcellus, was recently assigned a school project inspired by Black History Month. Marcellus had to report on five prominent African-Americans, and he certainly couldn't be faulted for choosing from among the likes Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Frederick Douglass or Thurgood Marshall.*Gerald suggested another name to his son: Marcus Garvey. Garvey founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association in 1914 and was an inspiration to Dr. King himself…facts the elder McCoy had learned during his own schoolwork as a young student in Oklahoma. *
"I had to do a report on him and I didn't know who he was," said McCoy. "Recently, my son had to do a project and I told him, 'Hey, man, you should do Marcus Garvey.' He had to report on five people. I also told him to pick Dorothy Dandridge; a lot of people don't know she was the first black woman nominated for an Oscar. A lot of people don't know these things."*Neither McCoy nor his son might have learned these things, either, if not for the influence of Black History Month, which has roots dating back to Garvey's era but was first officially recognized on a national scale in 1976. McCoy, who was born 12 years later, was aware of the observance from an early age. "Growing up, it was stressed very severely in my household, what it is and what it means," he explained. "It's not something that you just let go past and say, 'Oh, it's Black History Month,' and call it that. It has to *mean something to you. If you don't do it any other time of the year, this is the month to really go look at your history, what you're about, where you come from. That's what it was in my household and I'm passing that down to my children. But until I became an adult, or became older, I didn't really realize how important it was to learn about your history. It has meant more to me as I've gotten older." **
Photos of defensive tackle Gerald McCoy from the 2015 season.
In Gerald McCoy's households, Black History Month has always represented an opportunity to learn about one's origins, something that otherwise might not have been emphasized. It has given him a greater sense of who he is, and that's something he wants to give to his children, as well.*"It's great to have an opportunity to learn more and have it stressed to you," said McCoy. "If you don't really think about it, it's not necessarily something you're going to go research. But when it's brought to your attention during Black History Month, then you start learning more about who you really are and where you came from." *"I think it's a great thing. I know when I was in school we learned history, but when Black History Month comes around you get a chance to learn a little more about who you are. I'm not just biased towards my race, but any race should have an opportunity to learn more about who you are. But for us it's more than Dr. King or Malcolm X or Harriet Tubman. There are a lot more people who are not talked about, and that's who you can learn about."