How To Celebrate Black History Month 2018 & Keep Celebrating All Year Long
During my childhood, each Black History Month, I’d learn about Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, and Jackie Robinson. As I grew older, though, I learned that there were a lot of people and moments that weren’t taught in school, so I took it upon myself to learn and then educate others. From sharing facts during everyday conversation to encouraging my friends to visit Black history museums, I've come to realize celebrating Black History Month is as much about learning about Black History as much as it is teaching it to others who don't have this information, too.
Black history is one of those topics that’s so expansive that you’ll never run out of things to learn, or ways to celebrate it. You could dedicate each Black History Month for the rest of your life to a specific theme, and you’d still have to live for approximately 1,453 years to cover everything (I totally just made that number up, but you get the point).
Black people aren't a monolith, so there are a lot of different areas of Black History you can focus on. A popular one is definitely the American Civil Rights Movement, but you can also learn about and celebrate Reconstruction, important inventions, entertainment, and much more.
There are countless ways to celebrate Black History. Ahead, you’ll find 11 suggestions to get you going, but it's a long month: You’ll likely think of other, fun ways to celebrate.
1. Watch Documentaries About Important People or Moments In Black History
There are tons of documentaries about Black history out there. No matter what topic or person you’re interested in, there’s likely a documentary available to stream that will pique your interest. You can check out PBS's new documentary about Lorraine Hansberry, who is known for writing A Raisin in the Sun. You'll learn so much about her personal life and see how much of a visionary she was. Another good documentary to watch this Black History month is I Am Not Your Negro, which came out in 2017. This documentary was created using the text of an unfinished book by James Baldwin and explores the famous author and critic's life as it intertwined with the Civil Rights movement in America. Often times, we know only a surface level amount about important Black history figures. Documentaries allow you to learn way more about topics and people you're already interested in, so Black History Month is the perfect time to learn a thing or two from watching a new documentary.
2. Visit A Museum
Most states have a civil rights or Black history museum. Many state museums like the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum focus on the contributions of that specific state to the Civil Rights Movement. You could also plan a trip to visit the National Museum of African American History & Culture in D.C., which celebrates the breadth of African American history throughout the entire country. By going to a museum, you're not only learning about this important history, but you're supporting the people and institutions who make these archives possible for future generations — support that museums often need.
3. Read A Book (Or Three) By A Black Author
This Black History Month, make a point to seek out books by Black authors for your personal reading list or book club. You can read a classic like Octavia Butler’s Kindred, or a book by a new author like Sonya Renee Taylor, whose new book, The Body Is Not an Apology: The Power of Radical Self-Love, is coming out Feb. 13. Reading books by Black authors supports those creators and can broaden your knowledge of stories and perspectives.
4. Support An Organization Led By Black Women
In this current political environment, it’s more important than ever to support Black women. There are many politically focused organizations that are led by Black women that could use your donations and volunteer hours. These women are in the process of creating Black history for future generations and you could be an important part of their legacy.
5. Enjoy Black Art
No matter what your taste in art is like, there's a Black artist that makes work you'll enjoy. You can admire a Basquiat painting, or jam out to Beyonce’s “Freedom.” Learn about Kerry James Marshall's work, or visit a local Black-owned gallery. Visual art, photography, music, writing, and all other forms of art have the power to inspire and provoke powerful emotions, as well as chronicle history in a unique and sometimes underappreciated way. Supporting Black artists is the best way to ensure that more Black creatives continue making inspiring art that tells these stories.
6. Support A Black-Owned Business
Although February isn’t Black Business Month, which is in August, Black History Month is a great time to support Black businesses, especially small ones. Don’t know where to find Black-owned businesses? The Official Black Wall Street app is one of many apps designed to help consumers find Black businesses. Black businesses were a fixture in the Civil Rights Movements as they were often the only businesses that would treat Black customers with respect. Today, Black businesses often provide products to under-served communities and are involved in civic engagement. By showing love to Black businesses, you'll be supporting entrepreneurs who have a long legacy of helping their community.
7. Attend A Lecture By A Black Thought Leader
Many Black thought leaders will be asked to give talks and lectures this Black History Month. Support them by attending and thoughtfully engaging with their work. You can check your favorite authors'/thinkers'/critics' websites to see if they have any events coming up in February. Your local library or event space will probably also feature programming specifically for Black History Month. Of course, you can (and should) support them year-round, but Black History Month is a good time to start this practice.
8. Eat Soul Food
Food, especially soul food, is a staple in the Black community. According to The Spruce, soul food has its roots in slavery as enslaved Africans had to make meals from the scraps that were given to them. What was created eventually became known as soul food. Today, soul food is used to gather family and friends for graduations, birthdays, anniversaries, and more. This Black History Month, you can support a Black-owned soul food restaurant or try out some soul food recipes.
9. Donate To An HBCU
HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) have educated Black students for over a century. HBCUs are usually smaller than predominantly white institutions and have smaller endowments, according to the American Association of University Professors. A donation to an HBCU can ensure that more Black students receive an education on Black history — and go on to make it themselves.
10. Discuss Black History With Family And Friends
There’s always more to learn about Black history. A great way to learn and educate others is to have a dialogue, especially with older folks who lived through a lot of the events that you read about in history books. You can do this by simply asking a family member or friend where they were when a particular moment of Black history happened and let the conversation flow from there.
11. Make Black History
Black history isn’t a relic of the distant past; it's an ongoing process that's happening today. Earlier this month, Sterling K. Brown became the first Black actor to win a SAG award for male actor in a drama series, and last year, Vi Lyles became Charlotte, Virginia's first Black, female mayor. You can begin making Black history by following your passions unapologetically. Are you an artist? Enter an art show and let the world see your work. Are you passionate about helping children? Volunteer in your community and watch how much your presence makes an impact. Years from now, people could be celebrating you, too.
The internet has made it easier than ever to learn more about Black history, and in this current political climate, celebrating the accomplishments and contributions of Black people is more important than ever. Black history certainly can be celebrated beyond the month of February, but Black History Month 2018 is the perfect time to step up your Black history knowledge and celebrations.