Not sure how many people know this (I certainly didn’t until I got older) but, Black history month didn’t start out as the full month of February. In 1926, Harvard-trained author and historian, Dr. Carter G. Woodson, founded African American History week to fall over Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglas’ birthdays, two significant figures in African American history. It wasn’t until about a decade after the height of the civil rights movement in the 1960s, with the rise of Black identity, the week expanded into the full month of February. And, it wasn’t until 1986 that congress officially declared the month of February as Black History Month.
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Growing up in my elementary school, I can remember my teachers teaching a very scaled-down version of Black History. And, I mean that as in all of Black History, not just in February, but we’ll leave that for another time. Anyway, not to take away from the notable figures we learned about such as Martin Luther King Jr., Frederick Douglas, and Mary Mcleod Bethune, but our history doesn’t start and stop there. African American history runs deep in this country. It runs down to the foundation of what this country was built on. There is no learning about America without learning about Black history. And for everyday, year, and decade after the birth of America, there were and continue to be prolific black Americans who paved a path that was never intended for them to walk down. And we celebrate Black History Month to honor those who not only paved those paths, but ran down them, with their heads held high, for the rest of us.
There is no learning about America without learning about Black history.
It wasn’t until I got older that I really did my own research about our history. I learned about, Alvin Ailey, activist, and creator of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. I read I Know Why The Cage Bird Sings by Maya Angelou. I read excerpts by James Baldwin and books by Toni Morrison. I learned about Henrietta Lacks, laughed and cringed at some of Richard Pryor’s most famous bits. Saw August Wilson’s most famous play, Fences (later turned into the movie with Denzel Washington). Blasted Stevie Wonder in my headphones.
That is our American history.
And, the pride I feel knowing when our future generations celebrate Black History Month, the names of Barack and Michelle Obama, Kamala Harris will fill their books as the first Black family and Vice President in the White House.
Here’s How You Can Celebrate Black History This Month and The Next and The Next…
There’s no better way to learn and understand history than to throw yourself in the mind of a black author. Read books from the aforementioned authors, Toni Morrison, James Baldwin. I recently read Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi and it’s hands-down one of my favorite books.
2. Follow black content creators
We’re all spending so much time on social media. It’s how a lot of us get our news and stay up to date on current events. So, why not diversify your social media feeds to gain new perspectives? Here are some of my favorite content creators to follow:
She will fill your feed with the most insane travel inspo (and envy!) as well as the best tips and tricks for taking photos. Follow her on Instagram. She also happened to be a guest on mine and Lindsay Silberman’s podcast, At the Bar.
She’s the Beauty Director at Cosmopolitan and describes herself in her bio as a tall glass of sass. Enough said. Follow here here.
Raw. Honest. Advocate. A chef and a huge inspiration to me. Follow her here.
I’ve been following Chrissy for years – since her days at HEARST. Now, a full-time content creator, I love her raw, openness about mental health her beauty reccos, and her ever inspiring wardrobe. Follow her here.
3. Support Black Business
Support black businesses all day everyday. Here are a few of my favorite black-owned brands.
ROSE Ingleton MD Skincare
Clean beauty brand, @rosemdskin is an actual BOSS in the skin care industry, Dr. Rose Ingleton has over 20 years experience. Her booster serums are a game changer and her signature moisturizer is dreamy. Her product line offers something for everyone and for all skin types!
I recently started using black-owned beauty brand @adwoabeauty and cannot rave about it enough. in my search to move over to clean, cruelty-free products I fell down a rabbit hole learning about the founder and brand.
Julian Addo is the ultimate BOSS. First off, she invested $80K of her own money to launch her company because she saw a massive gap in the luxury hair care market for black people by black people. She imagined her product sitting on the shelves of Sephora — and that’s where you can find it. The shampoo and conditioner smell so intoxicating, I have to curb my husband from using my stash.
And the hair mask is 👌🏾👌🏾 —applied after shampooing, leave on for 5-15min then rinse. A great strengthening/detox treatment for all hair types!
Bread Hair Oil
I came across clean beauty brand @breadbeautysupply a few months ago and wish it was around when I was growing up. I cannot tell you how much hydration it pumps into my hair.
Created by Maeva Heim, this black-owned clean beauty brand has completely changed the way I approach my hair. I use way less heat and add more moisture which equals way LESS breakage.
For all my fellow frizzy haired people, this one’s for you!
Briogeo Scalp Revival
54 Thrones African Beauty Butter
A Dozen Cousins
A Dozen Cousins has a range of products that are inspired by traditional Black and Latino recipes from throughout the Americas — and made with real ingredients you can pronounce. The brand name is inspired by the founders daughter and her 11 cousins and all the family dinners they enjoy.
When I discovered @pipsnacks a few years ago, I knew I was hooked. They have a variety of snacks but the truffle popcorn and cheeseballs are my favorite. The brand was started in 2012 by siblings Jeff and Jen Martin and they have been killing it ever since. This female, minority owned family business has the recipe for success and I will have whatever they’re serving.
Founder Denise Woodward created @partakefoods when her daughter was diagnosed with multiple food allergies. All the products offer allergy-friendly foods that everyone can enjoy! They’re certified gluten-free, non-GMO, vegan and free of 9 allergens.
Although I’m not vegan and don’t have any allergies, these cookies are SO good and I def can’t wait to try their other products.
ZELIE FOR SHE
4. Have those uncomfortable conversations
If you are around family or friends who use racist language — or rhetoric like All Lives Matter, don’t just gasp and not respond to it. Educate yourself on the best approach on how to respond while getting your message across. You may not be able to convince everyone, but saying nothing is allowing the behavior to continue. Saying Black lives matter, is certainly not implying Black lives are anymore valuable than any others. It’s simply saying that our lives matter, too. All lives cannot matter unless Black lives matter.
5. Continue Anti-Racist Work in the Workplace
Corporate America can often be a petri dish for racism. Take a look at your executive leadership. Who is getting propelled through the corporate pipeline and promoted? Who are the decision makers? Are any of them people of color? If the answer is no, call it out. Do you have influence on who gets hired at your company? Make sure you tell your HR department that you want to see a wide diverse of applications before making the decision of who gets through the door.