Negro History Week was created in 1926 by Carter G. Woodson, a noted Black historian, scholar, educator and publisher. By the late 1960’s, thanks in part to the civil rights movement and a growing awareness of Black identity, Negro History Week evolved into Black History Month. In 1976, President Gerald Ford officially recognized February as Black History Month, and since 1976, every U.S. president has officially designated February as Black History Month.
I wonder why Black history isn’t stressed every month and why it is segregated from American history. Publishing my newsletters has been a small step in honoring Black history every month. But to start off this “official” Black History Month, I am sharing some of the NAACP’s list of ways you can celebrate Black History Month this year. I encourage you to consider undertaking at least a few of these ideas.
Support a Black business.
Here you will find a collection of apps, marketplaces, and directories to help you find Black businesses to support, no matter what you’re shopping for.
Visit a Black History or Civil Rights Museum in your local area.
Across the United States, the cultural history and heritage of Black and African Americans is preserved in museums, through historical societies, and by tireless local activists and volunteers. A state-by-state list of locations where you can find Black history museums and/or delve into African American history in your local area can be found here.
Donate to an HBCU.
There are 107 colleges in the United States that are identified by the US Department of Education as Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). Of those 107, three are currently closed. You can find a list of these colleges and universities in alphabetical order and listed by state on the Hundred-seven HBCU Listing here.
Donate to a Black organization.
You can find a list of highly-rated charities that defend civil rights, protect legal rights, and promote tolerance and understanding here.
Join a Black organization.
In addition to donating to the organizations above, consider joining. An additional list of Black organizations is included in my July 12, 2020 newsletter.
Sign up to receive news from a Black organization.
For the Black organizations and charities that have meaning to you in the above lists, consider signing up to receive their newsletters.
Host a Black film marathon (or watch by yourself).
You can find Black movies that are streaming on Netflix here. To find links to movies by Black filmmakers, click here. If you enjoy watching romance movies, you can find links to Black romance movies here. And for some of the classic Black films, click here.
Read a book by a Black author.
Reading books by Black authors is one of the best ways to honor some of the community's most illuminating stories. Thanks to the work of African American authors, the world can better understand both the struggles and triumphs of Black people in America. From wise artists like Maya Angelou to new voices like Marlon James and Kiley Reid, and leaders like the Obamas, Oprah has gathered some of the all time best books by Black authors.
For a list of books by Black authors recommended by various TED talk speakers, click here.
Sign up to mentor a Black child in your community.
To mentor a child in foster care, you can reach out to Aid to Adoption of Special Kids (AASK) or to The National Mentoring Resource Center, or to The Children’s Village. To become involved with the African American Big Sisters and Big Brothers organization, you can click here to learn more.
Consider joining the National CARES Mentoring Movement. The organization has affiliates across the country and connects volunteers to where they are most urgently needed: in schools, local youth-serving organizations, and detention centers and reentry programs located in communities that are disrupted by poverty. You can find more information about this organization here.
Spend time with a Black elder in your community.
Like the general population of older adults, Black older adults are living longer. Unlike their White counterparts, however, Black older adults experience significant health disparities, including lower life expectancies and an increased risk of chronic health conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, dementia, stroke, and cancer. In recent years there has been a surge of interest in the impact of racial discrimination on the quality of life of African Americans, sparked in part by #BlackLivesMatter. Black older adults, however, have also experienced cumulative race-related stressors that negatively impact their physical and mental health. You can assist a Black elder who may have limited access to community resources (e.g., grocery stores, pharmacies, culturally competent health and aging service providers, transportation, housing, etc.)—situations that contribute to race-related stress and create barriers to achieving healthy and productive aging. Or simply sit and have a conversation with an elder who may be lonely for company.
Learn about an unsung hero of Black history.
To learn about the numerous unsung Black American heroes and heroines, most of whom lived in the 19th century, check out my December 13th and December 20th newsletters. For a list of children’s books that celebrate Black heroes click here or here. For a list of ten must-read biographies of influential Black Americans, click here.
Support a creative Black individual.
Seek out Black artists, poets, writers, designers, authors, dancers, musicians, actors, and others in the creative arts in your community. Introduce them to the children in your schools. Organize events in which they can showcase their talents. Invite them to appear at groups to which you belong. Donate to the groups to which they belong. Engaging with the creative arts help us to understand others’ cultures and enhances our awareness and respect of others.
Explore Black music.
Ever since 1977, when President Jimmy Carter declared each June as Black Music Month, June has been recognized as a time to commemorate and celebrate the many contributions that Black Americans have made to music in this country. Each U.S. president since Carter has upheld the tradition and in 2009, President Barack Obama changed the name to African-American Music Appreciation Month.
Even though this isn’t African-American Music Appreciation Month, Black History Month is also a perfect time to honor Black Americans whose music has brought us joy. You can find a list of 100 Black Americans who have shaped American music here.
Contribute an essay or blog to a Black media outlet.
Contribute to a Black newspaper (also known as the Black press or African-American newspapers). Samuel Cornish and John Brown Russwurm started the first Black periodical called Freedom's Journal in 1827. During the antebellum South, other African-American newspapers sprang forth, such as The North Star founded in 1847 by Frederick Douglass. In the 21st century, newspapers of all sorts have shut down, merged, or shrunk in response to the dominance of the Internet. A list of African-American newspapers and media outlets can be found here on Wikipedia.
If you aren’t familiar with Black media outlets, this site can familiarize you with the ten most prominent.
Engage in healthy conversations about Black history on social media.
Use your social media outlets to open healthy conversations about Black history, Black events in your community, Black citizens who have performed acts of kindness, etc. You can teach others and become a voice for anti-racist sentiment.
Call out racism and prejudice in your community.
- Stand up in a county council or city council meeting.
- Write letters to the editor of your local newspaper.
- Refuse to listen to or partake in racist jokes or jokes that disparage any other group of people.
- Intervene safely against harassment.
Learn the lyrics to Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing.
The song was written as a poem by James Weldon Johsnon. In 1899 Johnson’s brother set the poem to music and the song was adopted by the NAACP as the Negro National Athem. It is now considered the Black National Anthem. You can hear the song sung by Esther Williams here and read the words here.
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How will you honor Black History Month? I look forward to hearing your responses.