Meaningfully Engaging with Black History Month
When I was in elementary school, Black History Month gave me a very limited insight to the contributions and stories of several leaders such as Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, and Nelson Mandela. As we enter into Black History Month, 2021, my goals are to immerse myself in learning how Black history is being made right now, as it always has been. The goal is to search for a perspective different from my own, and this season, not just this month, it is more important than ever to search out those many different perspectives from the Black/African American culture. If I can continue to learn from these different perspectives, I will deepen my ability to observe and revel in what I see and learn. A plan of action:
Explore the culture:
A great way to revel in and enjoy a culture different from my own has been to explore through the arts, which I am a big fan of. Below are some suggestions:
Use streaming services – to watch great movies like Hidden Figures, 13th, Selma, Walk Against Fear: James Meredith, and many more listed in the link below.
Celebrate with cooking – If you love cooking like I do and have extra time during COVID, then broaden your horizons with cooking. Two invaluable website resources for those who want to deepen their knowledge are: Black Culinary History and Cuisine Noir. Both sites preserve and promote the past and present contributions of chefs of color throughout the African diaspora.
Support Black-owned small businesses – 2020 was a year of small businesses suffering and their communities rallying behind them. How about supporting Black-owned businesses in efforts of keeping the diverse offerings in place?
Learn the History:
View virtual exhibits – to learn more about the actual historical and present perspective than I learned in school. Through storytelling, preservation, and archiving, the sites below become a living history lesson.
Also, make a virtual visit to HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities), such as Spelman College, https://www.spelman.edu/ , or Howard University, https://home.howard.edu/ to read about Black academia. Consider how many stories, events, and people have been left out of the story of our nation, and empower yourself to think about the omissions and how that affects our perceptions. Take the initiative to intentionally educate yourself. There’s so much to learn!
Start a conversation:
Stacy Oden introduced a concept a few months ago which was called “Mirrors and Windows.” A mirror shows your own person. The mirror is an important representation of who you are and is necessary for self-awareness. A window is something you look through, but this particular reference speaks to looking into other cultures as someone who is standing outside.
Ask about real-life experiences, the perspectives that have been passed down through generations and the world as others have experienced it. Ask about the next thing that will be celebrated and the family history of that celebration. Ask what they are looking forward to and what they are concerned about. And then…
Listen to their hopes and concerns. Listen to their unique perspective because each person is unique. Listen without interjecting your own story; just listen…and learn. Listening is a form of reveling.
Black History Month is a reminder to explore Black history, examine our own biases, support African American businesses, by diversifying our views and engaging through meaningful conversation and listening.