BY: MONIQUE JONES, AUTHOR OF THE BOOK OF AWESOME BLACK AMERICANS
Black History Month is generally thought of as a once-a-year celebration of Black American and Black diasporic culture, innovations, and, of course, history. But you don’t have to celebrate Black History Month just in February.
If you’ve been wanting some ideas on how to celebrate Black History Month this year, I have a few suggestions that I feel are not only easy to fit into a busy lifestyle, but also easy to learn Black history from in an entertaining, thought-provoking way.
1. Read some cool and informative books
If you’re like me, you love reading. Why not use your love of the written word to transport you to different points in Black history?
Reading is a great way to celebrate Black History Month because reading instantly puts you in an empathetic mindset. You are experiencing a world through another character or historical person’s eyes. It’s as if you can feel what they felt just by reading about their ups and downs, their successes and losses, and the lessons they’ve learned along the way. You also get a feel for how they have managed the curveballs and injustices life might have thrown their way. Reading about others can help you gain the skill of seeing life from other perspectives, which grows your senses of empathy and compassion. And what this world always needs more of is empathy and compassion.
If you want to get your book reading adventure started, might I suggest my book, The Book of Awesome Black Americans? Not only will you exercise that all-important empathy skill, but you’ll also come away inspired and emboldened to try to leave your positive mark on the world as well.
2. Watch some cool movies and TV
When it comes to tips on how to celebrate Black History Month, I think a great one is taking in a movie. Granted, a word of caution–if you are watching a film about heavy topics, such as slavery, lynchings, etc., make sure the children who might be watching with you are able to handle such situations. Regardless, films about the hardships Black Americans have had to endure, like 12 Years A Slave, Amistad, or Eyes on the Prize, as well as lighter films such as Soul Food, Sylvie’s Love, A Warm December, The Photograph, and others can give viewers a well-rounded look at what it means to be Black in Western society. Sure, there is a lot of sadness and distress. But there is also a lot of joy, love for family, and success amid impossible odds.
Television can work in a similar way. Of course, there’s the classic miniseries Roots, which gave American audiences their first detailed look at Black life during slavery. But you can also check out the 2016 reboot, which applied the decades of knowledge gained about Gambian life since the original Roots debuted in the 1970s. Whereas the original introduced Americans, white Americans in particular, to the fact that African societies weren’t the primitive collectives they were taught in school, the reboot expounded on that, showing a sprawling, Islamic-based metropolis of higher learning, wealth, and prestige within Gambia. Other series like Lovecraft Country mix genres to educate audiences on racism while enthralling them with the supernatural. Still others, like sitcoms Grand Crew, Abbott Elementary, The Upshaws, Family Reunion and others, showcase everyday Black life, which is varied, complex, and individual.
3. Strike up conversations and see where they lead
Watching and reading isn’t enough though. After you’ve taken in all of this content, the next thing to do is talk about it with those who watched or read it with you!
Whether you’re talking with friends, family, or your classroom, talking about the stories expressed in TV, film and books will reinforce what you’ve learned. Hearing what others have to say will also let you in on points of view you may not have considered. Again, empathy and compassion are the name of the game here, and engaging in conversations with others about the media you have seen will strengthen your capacity for empathizing and self-reflection.
It’ll also help you develop ways to put the positive lessons you’ve gleaned into action. If you felt inspired after reading The Book of Awesome Black Americans to follow in the path of Black environmentalists, you can talk about what it might take to create a small garden. Or, if you read about the civil rights leaders in the book, you might want to start your own activist work. Talking about how to stand up for others is a great way to get into the activist mindset. If you’ve watched a show like Lovecraft Country, you might want to talk about why the story inspired you. Perhaps, after talking about what you liked or didn’t like about the show, you might want to create your own script for an idea, jumpstarting your own creative writing journey. You never know where a conversation can take you.
When it comes to how to celebrate Black History Month, there are a myriad of ways to keep the month filled with learning activities. But the best activities are the ones you can incorporate year-round, since Black history doesn’t end after February. The more you celebrate and learn from Black history–as well as the histories of all people of color in America–the more appreciation you gain, and the closer to humanity you feel.
If you’re Interested in more a personalized list based on what you stream + follow, check out our Best Books for Black History Month