“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains,
but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”
February is Black History Month, a time for celebration, recognition, reflection, and strategizing on how to continue moving racial justice forward in the United States. No matter the color of one’s skin, this month is a stellar opportunity to revel in, celebrate, and joyfully share the accomplishments and history of the Black community.
As we celebrate all that Black people have achieved, it’s also important to recognize the immeasurable barriers that have stood in the way of progress and to recognize the vast work that still needs to be done to achieve racial justice and equality in the United States.
- Check out digital programming from the SmithsonianThe Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Cultureis offering many options to learn more about Black history, including Joyful Fridays, a weekly program for kids that celebrates Black culture and frequent talks from experts on various facets of Black history.
- Have African American or multiracial heritage? Sign up for Be The Match
People of Black and multiracial backgrounds only have a 23% chance of finding a match when they need a bone marrow transplant. Be The Match Foundation is working to change that number by campaigning for more people of color to sign up for the bone marrow donation registry. Doing so can improve the health of Black and multiracial individuals suffering from sickle cell anemia and other conditions.
- Talk to your kids about Black History in an age-appropriate way
When you have little ones, it can be tough to know exactly what to say about the atrocities of slavery. Follow this guide from the University of Illinois on how to talk to your kids about Black History Month in an age-appropriate, effective, meaningful way.
- Try interactive educational activities for kids
Due to COVID-19, many parents and little ones are staying put, making it tough to experience exhibits. Thankfully, many interactive options are available online. Take a look at Scholastic’s interactive Underground Railroad activity.
Check out the New York Historical Society’s online Slavery in New York exhibit, shattering the commonly held idea that slavery only existed in the South.
When discussing slavery and other types of systemic injustice and oppression, keep in mind University of Missouri associate professor LaGarrett J. King’s guidelines: while it’s key to talk about power, oppression, and injustice, it’s also important to equally highlight Black resilience, resistance, agency, and perseverance.
- Cook up a celebration
Traditional African American cuisine in the United States is a combination of flavors from around the world, including African, Southern, Creole, and Caribbean recipes and spices. Trying new, traditionally Black recipes can be a fun way to get the whole family involved in the celebration of Black History Month.
Enjoy your meal with your family while listening to one of the many Black History Month playlists on Spotify that celebrate both well-known and up-and-coming Black artists, or check out some information on how Blues music got its start in Southern fields at the National Blues Museum.
- Get real with yourself about bias, privilege, and oppression
It’s not easy to think that you or someone you love may have a bias towards others. Often, bias and prejudice are taught at a young age, and it can be hard to recognize the implications of these deep-rooted beliefs in day-to-day life. The first step toward overcoming bias is to know that it exists. This implicit bias test from Harvard provides insight into how your opinions of others may be less fair than you think.
After taking the test, it can be helpful to go through a debrief process, like this one provided by The Ohio State University’s Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity.
- Celebrate Black poetry
Both tried-and-true options (like “I, Too” by Langston Hughes) and up-and-comers (like 2017 Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman’s “The Hill We Climb” performed at President Biden’s inauguration) offer a beautiful view into the reality of life for Black Americans.
- Have family game night and include traditional African games like Mancala, Zamma, Tsoro Yematatu and Fanorona
Whether your family consists of adults or there are kiddos involved, everyone will love learning to play a new game. While you can purchase traditional game boards online, many African games can be played using materials you have at home.
Celebrating Black History Month matters, and it’s important to educate yourself, your family, and your friends about Black excellence. Remember, Black history doesn’t just matter in February. Black history is everyone’s history, and it deserves to be celebrated year-round.