Magazine, The Immigrant Experience
With the start of February, federally recognized celebrations of Black History Month (BHM) are kickstarted in the United States to commemorate the contributions of African-American towards the growth and development of this country.
The BHM – which is one of the most celebrated cultural heritage months in the US – provides us with the opportunity to reflect on the continued struggle made by people of color for racial justice.
Who started Black History Month?
The credit of developing Black History Month goes to Carter G. Woodson, whom we know as the “Father of Black History”. His parents were black slaves but he somehow managed to earn a Ph.D. degree. He was the second African-American to get a Ph.D. from Harvard University.
Woodson – a renowned author, and historian – learned that the American education system doesn’t provide enough information about the achievement and contributions of African-Americans. To educate American students over the subject, he founded the Association for the Study of African-American Life and History, erstwhile the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History.
In 1926, he proposed to mark Negro History Week nationally to showcase the information students get about Black History throughout the academic session. In 1976, when the civil rights movement was in full swing, President Gerald Ford expanded the Negro History Week and announced to mark February as federally recognized Black History Month.
Importance of Black History Month
Black History Month is a time to highlight and celebrate the accomplishments of African Americans and people of African descent. The day spreads awareness about Black history, which is an integral part of America’s history. So, it’s a very important month on the calendar as it connects young Americans with their history.
The BHM allows us to examine our past and to provide us with a way forward to realize the American dream of creating a society where discriminative treatment based on caste, creed, or color is meted out to no one.
Martin Luther King Jr. said, “History books … had almost completely ignored the contribution of Black-Americans”. The BHM inspires us to search beyond the typical and dig deep to find the untold stories of black accomplishments. Many untold stories are waiting for us to research and bring to the public.
Since the BHM was a move designed, then and now, to counter negative and racist stereotypes ingrained in American culture, it paves the way for building an anti-racist basis for learning and promoting American history.
How to Make the BHM Celebrations Meaningful?
Schools and businesses offer Black-history-themed meals, lectures, plays, and quizzes while major brands roll out clothing, television specials, and content for consumers, which can sometimes come off as tone-deaf, particularly when presented without context.
Almost every individual and organization in the US commemorates the BHM. Academic institutions offer Black-history-themed lectures, quizzes, plays, and other related activities while large businesses and brands launch clothing, TV shows, and related content.
However, only a handful of activities serve the real purpose of marking the BHM, i.e. recognizing the heritage, accomplishments, and culture of Black-Americans and realizing racial justice in true spirit. Here are a few ways which can help you to make the BHM celebrations more meaningful.
Become a Donor
The theme for Black History Month 2022 is “Black Health and Wellness.” So, one of the best ways to celebrate Black History Month this February is to do something tangible for improving Black health – in both mind and body.
Black-Americans have a low representation on the registry. This reduces their chances of getting a suitable bone marrow match to just 23%. You can become a bone marrow donor as increased donations can save more lives for those battling blood cancers or related blood disorders.
Read, Learn, and Disseminate
The BHM is a wonderful time for learning more about Black literature, history, and biography. In this regard, libraries, bookstores, and online repositories can help you a great deal. Just find a few books about an aspect of Black history that you were previously unaware of and get educated.
Don’t forget to pass on the knowledge you gained to your fellow Americans. In this way, not only you’ll be creating awareness about Black contributions and accomplishments but also help create a more harmonized and racially just America where everybody, regardless of their color and creed, would be treated equally.
To learn more this month about Black history, we recommend reading at least these five books:
(1) “The Dead Are Arising: The Life of Malcolm X,” by Les Payne and Tamara Payne
(2) “Heavy,”by Kiese Laymon
(3) “Punching the Air,” by Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam
(4) “Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools,” Monique W. Morris
(5) “All About Love: New Visions,” by bell hooks
Support Black Businesses
The Covid-19 severely affected businesses and economies all around the globe. In 2020, almost 50% of Black business owners closed their businesses due to the economic crunch. This number is twice the downfall experienced by white business owners.
So this Black History Month, your one move should be to gather support for Black business owners. You can invest in their businesses if you can. That would be the strongest and most impactful way of supporting them. Or you can go for other economical ways of responding to the economic disparities faced by Black-American businesses such as buying their products and motivating people in your social circle to support them.
Black History Month is a way of celebrating those who’ve impacted not just America but the whole world with their accomplishments and activism. Therefore, we should celebrate it proudly by engaging with Black history, going beyond discussions of racism, and highlighting Black leaders and their efforts to make America what it is today.