Last week I wrote of some reasons why I think Black History Month is worth celebrating, whatever our color. But how can we celebrate it? Here are a few ideas I’ve come up with—please feel free add your own in the comments below!
Read biographies, slave narratives, historical fiction, and original writings of great black Americans like James Baldwin, Langston Hughes, Martin Luther King Jr., and Booker T. Washington. Google famous African-Americans like those mentioned last week. Talk to African Americans you know—ask about their stories, family histories, and perspectives on Black History Month.
I’ve found some wonderful documentaries about black history in the past few years (Freedom Riders, The Abolitionists, Return to Glory), as well as dramatic films that deal with racial issues (Belle, The Great Debaters, Selma). Why not have a movie night? (Though do be alert for mature content if you have children.
3. Have conversations
Similar to #1, but try being intentional with relationships and conversations. Bring up Black History month with friends and coworkers and listen to people’s perspectives. As a nation and especially a church, we’re not very comfortable talking about racial issues. We need to work on that. It doesn’t have to be scary—okay, sometimes it is a little, because everyone involved has to be vulnerable. But if entered into with an open, humble, and teachable heart, it can be very worth it.
(And I’m realizing I need to be willing to put this into practice myself in new ways…check back in two weeks for a special post in that vein!
See #1 and #3. I’ve learned from African American sisters in Christ that one of the most hurtful things white people like me can do when racial issues come up—whether stories in the news or thoughtless comments we might overhear—is nothing. One friend compared it to having a natural disaster in your part of the country and not having anyone check in to see if you’re okay. It can feel awkward, but really, how hard is it to ask, “How are you doing with this?” and just listen? Without projecting our own (possibly uninformed) perspectives and opinions.
As another take on “listening,” African-American culture is rich in music, from spirituals to jazz to contemporary gospel. Why not listen to some this month?
Find ways to honor significant figures in Black History this month. A couple of weeks ago, I saw a curriculum page at the after-school program for transitioning homeless families where I volunteer. It listed lots of creative ideas for incorporating Black History month with a children’s Bible study on love, like including specifically Christian black heroes among those honored and putting pictures of each historical figure up on a board throughout the month. What a neat way to introduce kids to African American heroes of our history!
So, those are my ideas! What are yours? Do you honor Black History Month, and if so, how? And especially if you are of African-American background yourself, I would love to hear any ideas, corrections, or experiences you’d like to share!
This post is the second in a special Black History series this month. Check back or subscribe (see link at the top right) if you’d like to read more.