February is officially Black History Month, or African American History Month (for those wanting to be politically correct). A month dedicated to honoring our history, our struggles, and our triumphs as blacks in America. However, as a black woman, I’m always thinking of ways I can celebrate all year long. As the month draws to a close, let us not forget where we came from and how much further we have to go. Also, as a mother of African American children, it is my duty to instill in them the pride that we people of African descent should have in ourselves and in our fellow men.
I consistently teach Madison about her culture, letting her know that the color of her skin does not define who she is, that the texture of her hair does not make her “a nobody,” and that she is beautiful inside and out, no matter what television, her favorite dolls, books, magazines, and the rest of society might want her to believe. When people exclaim that her hair is pretty (with and without her hair extensions), say thank you and accept it for what it is. Don’t self-doubt because YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL!
So how can I, as a black person, celebrate Black History Month all year long? Here are five easy ways!
1. Support Black-Owned Businesses
I have to admit that I haven’t always done this, and living in a city where there are only 6% of “us” here makes it a tad difficult to do. However, there is also this mentality that products made by people of color are inferior compared to those who aren’t. That couldn’t be further from the truth. When we support black-owned businesses, we not only help people like ourselves but our community as well. There are many black-owned companies online, but you can also find them in your area as well. If you’re unsure of where to look, there are a few apps that can help you. My favorite three are Official Black Wall Street, Where U Came From, and Black Nation.
2. Purchase Black Literature
I don’t just mean literature about people of color, but literature written by people of color, both fiction and non-fiction. I’ve noticed that we very rarely see a black author on the Times Bestseller list, but that doesn’t mean that our work isn’t just as well written or just as entertaining. If you’re having a hard time figuring out a few black authors to read, or would even prefer to have a few in constant rotation, how about subscribing to the Black Book Club? Currently, for adults, there are Noir Reads, while you can sign up for the Just Like Me Book Box subscription for your kids. Challenge yourself to read at least one black-authored book a month this year.
3. Support Black Art/Artists
Sure, we would all love to have an original Monet painting in our home, but unless we’re super-rich or have been willed one, it’s highly unlikely that’s going to happen. While I enjoy artwork, having an original has always meant more to me, as I prefer having something unique in my home instead of copies of manufactured art that can be seen everywhere. Support your local African American artist, or even one that you found online. Support comes in many forms; you don’t necessarily have to purchase their work, but simply sharing it with your friends, family, or via social media can give them that boost that they may just need to get their work seen by more eyes.
4. Support Your Black Actors/Actresses & Muscians
I’ve personally noticed that most of the movies that I currently watch, including TV shows, have primarily Caucasian characters. However, we have very talented stars amongst ourselves as well. Stars such as Denzel Washington, Morgan Freeman, Halle Berry, and Viola Davis, just to name a few. Stream, rent, or purchase movies by your favorite black actors, actresses, producers, or directors. Go and see your favorites in the movie theater, just like you did when Black Panther was released.
When it comes to music, I’m going to have to admit that listening to the new genre of music can be a tad difficult for me, as I’m not too fond of the current music trend. Call me old school, but I’m from the Marvin Gaye and Bob Marley eras, which I consider real music. African American music has had an enormous influence on music worldwide. Pick up some old-school rhythm and blues or soul music from the greats such as Marvin Gaye or Al Green, or listen to hip-hop from legends such as Jay-Z or the newer sounds from Kendrick Lamar, or some good old funk rock from Prince. You can purchase their albums, or if you’re like the younger generation, download their albums digitally (the legal way).
5. Support Black Non-Profits
There are many black non-profits dedicated to the betterment of African-Americans that are worth your time and effort. Many of them work diligently for equal rights and the well-being of our black community. You may consider donating your time, effort, or money to many of these organizations. You can make a significant impact by giving large amounts to one non-profit organization or small amounts to a few of your choices. Your donation will enable them to get one step closer to their mission goal. If you’re unsure of which non-profit you should donate to, here are a few to consider.
The NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) is the oldest black organization that champions social justice, educational, political, and economic equal rights for all. It is their mission to eliminate racial-based discrimination and ensure that the voices of African-Americans can be heard.
Education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world.Nelson Mandela
The UNCF (United Negro College Fund) helps by offering marginalized groups a range of support to its 39 historically black colleges and universities to make higher education possible. Without the assistance of the UNCF, many colleges would be out of reach for most African-Americans. As a result, there have been over 430,000 graduates with the help of UNCF.
Black Girls Code is an organization that focuses on empowering young black girls (ages 7–17) in the technology and computer programming fields by educating them. Not only do they host after-school programs and workshops, but they aim to train and qualify one million black girls in the tech field by 2040.
Black Lives Matter was formed after the death of Trayvon Martin and in response to the acquittal of his killer, George Zimmerman, in 2013, but quickly became a national movement to end police brutality, which seems to target a disproportionate amount of the black community. It is their belief that all black lives matter, regardless of actual or perceived sexual identity, gender identity, gender expression, economic status, ability, disability, religious beliefs or disbeliefs, immigration status, or location.
100 Black Men of America seeks to improve the quality of life and enhance educational and economic opportunities for all African Americans. It is currently the most extensive network of African American male mentors in the USA. Their mentorship program focuses on black kids in education, health and wellness, economic empowerment, and leadership development, with the hope of building leaders within the African American community.
Based in Atlanta, SisterLove focuses on educating women of color about HIV/AIDS prevention and safer sex techniques. They believe that “Everyone Has a Story” when it comes to how women are affected by this deadly disease. Not only do they offer HIV testing and counseling, health education, and advocacy programs, but they also offer international and leadership programs.
Black History Month comes around once a year, but that doesn’t mean that once it’s over, we should stop being black or forget about what it means until the following year. Let’s continue to show our support to our brothers and sisters all year round. Donate, purchase, or even mentor; whatever you do, do it and do it well. Stand proud! Remember…
It always seems impossible until it’s done.Nelson Mandela