Ten things to do this Black History Month
February 2021 was a blur. We had just witnessed the swearing in of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harrison, and the beautiful poetry of Amanda Gordon. All this while hunkering down in pandemic mode and reeling from the aftermath of the January 6th insurrection. It was a weird mixed bag. Black History Month was over before I realized that I’d done nothing to celebrate it.
Not so this time! Here are ten things we can do to celebrate Black Love, Black Pride, and Black Power this year.
- Watch movies, documentaries, and shows that feature Black artists, Black voices, and Black talent. I’m currently enjoying Amazon’s free selection of Black History Month shows, including Phat Tuesdays – The Era of Hip Hop Comedy, which describes how Guy Torry created a space where Black humor and Black talent could thrive. His efforts resulted in the discovery of Black artists who inevitably reached and transformed mainstream entertainment in America and across the world. Another favorite is Black History, Black Freedom, Black Love, a masterclass featuring outstanding thinkers like Cornel West, Jelani Cobb, Nikole Hannah-Jones, and John McWhorter, who discuss the evolution of Black thought and ideas in America.
- Check out some Black History Month events in your community. Currently in Atlanta, we have the Obama Portraits at the High Museum. Last weekend I watched a spectacular musical performance by Orchestra Noir, an Atlanta-based all-Black orchestra which “aims to celebrate the cultural achievements of African-American music pioneers across all genres of music”. And it was only $30 (with some tickets selling for less). Take advantage of free and affordable events that work for all ages, pocket books, and tastes.
- Grab a blanket and a book (or join/start a book club) and read Black authors from the diaspora: African-American, British, African, Cuban, West Indian, South American: Black writers are everywhere! Read a Black author you have never heard of, and reread some the well-known Black classics. In the documentary Toni Morrison: The Pieces I am, poet Sonia Sanchez says that we should read Toni Morrison every ten years “to reimagine ourselves on the American landscape”. I’m rereading Chinua Achebe’s African Trilogy which I first encountered in high school.
- Read to a Black child (or have them read to you). Some excellent books that I’m enjoying with young readers are: Sulwe by Lupita Nyong’o, Amanda Gorman’s Change Sings, I’m Every Good Thing by Derrick Barnes and Gordon C. James, Wangari’s Trees of Peace by Jeanette Winter, In the Spirit of a Dream by Alina Chau and Aida Salazar, and – how could I resist – Nyambura Waits for the Bus by Cath Alexander.
- Tell that hard working, inspiring Black parent, professional, front line worker, community member you know that you appreciate and admire their skills and presence. Mail a card, send an email, or call and thank them for their service and contributions.
- Support mental health for Black communities: Make a donation to organizations like the Loveland Foundation Therapy Fund, established in 2018 by Rachel Cargle to provide financial assistance to Black women and girls to receive therapy from licensed professionals. Also check out Therapy for Black Girls, which Atlanta psychologist Dr Joy Harden Bradford founded in 2014 “to make mental health accessible and relevant to Black women and girls”. Positive Growth, Inc, a nonprofit organization in Clarkston, GA, is doing amazing work providing mental health services to minority and refugee communities (full disclosure: I’ve worked with them for almost 10 years now and I’m proud of the work we do). You can also donate your time, money, or expertise to a nonprofit organization that supports Black communities in the areas of racial and social justice, LGBTQ rights, legal assistance, nutrition, education, etc.
- Listen to podcasts by Black hosts. My current favorites are NPR’s It’s Been a Minute with Sam Sanders, Glynn Washington’s Snap Judgment, and Code Switch.
- Support Black-owned businesses in your community. And when you go shopping in stores like Target, look for aisles that highlight Black products. When we support our Black businesses, we inspire more Black entrepreneurs and help our communities thrive.
- If you’re old school like me and still enjoy sending people cards and packages via snail mail, buy forever stamps from the Black Heritage series. Right now I have Gwen Ifill and August Wilson and would love to get my hands on Harriet Tubman and Ma Rainey stamps.
- Spend time with a Black Elder. Bring them flowers and a home-cooked meal. Sit or walk with them. Put your phone away. Listen.
Photo by Oladimeji Odunsi on Unsplash