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.
Raw. Honest. Advocate. A chef and a huge inspiration to me. Follow her here.
3. Support Black Business
Support black businesses all day everyday. Here are a few of my favorite black owned brands.
Briogeo Deep Conditioning Mask
Pat McGrath Lab Lip Gloss
Kreyol Essence Haitian Black Castor Oil
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.