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!
For us adults, hello, social media! There are so many ways to share pictures and links and articles on historical figures…I want to try that out more this February.
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.
Thank you SO much for blogging on this topic–the importance of black history month and ways in which to celebrate. I love your ideas, and I’d like to encourage you to continue heightening awareness even when it seems as if not many people are paying attention. Trust me, we are! Below are just a few things I’ve done in the past or plan to do this year.
1. Attend a black history prayer breakfast, play, or related program sponsored by a local school or church.
2. Celebrate with other groups who share a similar history. For years, I attended a black history fellowship held in a Jewish Synagogue, where we sang and danced together as we honored God, our REDEEMER. The theme was typically about unity/reconciliation and the program always ended with the song “We Shall Overcome.”
3. I’ve always tried to cook a few traditional African recipes. Always better trying someone else’s, though. So in that vein, I’d suggest visiting an African-American owned restaurant that cooks traditional foods. When I lived in NYC, I ate at Sylvia’s in Harlem. Here in the DC area, I’ve eaten at Georgia Brown’s. Mmm, Mmm Good!
4. This year, I have tickets for a Black History Bus Tour in Baltimore. There will be reenactments and such, visits to museums (Blacks in Wax), as well as a shoebox lunch (typical of how blacks traveled back then). Should be a blast.
5. The local theater has invited all African-American youth and their parents to view Selma on screen this upcoming Saturday. It is a sponsored event that is free of charge to all participants. Afterwards, there will be open dialog concerning history and contemporary times relevant to youth. The radio station will also be present to broadcast parts of the event.
There’s a lot going on in my area. If others would like to know more about their area, very often the local library has a list of events. Sometimes, there are also cultural centers that can point individuals in the right direction.
Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing, Sandra, and for all your wonderful ideas! Especially the one about local libraries having events–that’s such a good suggestion. Made me remember that I saw our local library is featuring an African-American storyteller this week–maybe I can figure out a way to go! I love the idea of visiting an African-American restaurant too, and the memories you’ve made with Jewish brothers and sisters. Bless you!