In February of 1969, a group of educators and students at Kent State University proposed the first celebration of a Black History Month. A year later, the celebration officially took place.
Flash forward six years, and Black History Month was celebrated from coast to coast as President Gerald Ford recognized the celebratory month. Ford urged Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”
Then, in 2009, America made history when Barack Obama became the first African-American president of the U.S.
While these successes may seem as though the case is closed on racial inequality in America, it only offers a painful reminder of how the case is very much still open. We have achieved great progress, but we still have not yet arrived.
There remains a not-so-subtle divide between people because of their skin color and cultural background. While I am grateful Black History Month serves as a reminder to honor our black brothers and sisters and the roads both they and their ancestors have traveled, recent news events make it clear: progress for some is agonizingly slow.
Black excellence deserves to be celebrated every day, as do the accomplishments from all minorities across the nation. Not just this month, but especially this month, let us offer just a small fraction of our time to reflect on the resilience of the black community.
Whereas this is not an exhaustive list of the ways you can celebrate Black History Month, here are a few ways to participate.
1. Support a Black-Owned Business
Although August is Black Business Month, Black History Month is a great opportunity to support black businesses. Not sure where to find one? The Official Black Wall Street app features a directory of black businesses to help consumers locate them with ease.
2. Watch a Documentary (or two or three) About Important People or Moments in Black History
PBS has culminated a top-10 list for must-watch black history documentaries on their website, and Netflix also has a wide variety of documentaries to choose from, including a look at legendary singer and activist Nina Simone.
3. Attend a Lecture by a Black Thought Leader
Many influential speakers and activists are asked to present talks and lectures throughout the month of February. You can easily find a list of local events in your community online and posted at libraries and universities. For Edmond and Oklahoma City residents, founder and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative Bryan Stevenson will speak at Oklahoma Christian University on Feb. 18. This event should certainly be taken advantage of, because Stevenson offers thought-provoking wisdom as a public interest lawyer who has dedicated his career to helping the underprivileged, impoverished and incarcerated.
4. Support a Non-Profit Organization that Empowers Black Communities
There are several incredible nonprofit organizations working to make a difference in black communities across the country. Just a few include: Million Hoodies, Color of Change, Black Youth Project, My Brother’s Keeper and the Empowerment Program.
Read a book by a black author, listen to music produced by black artists or enjoy art created by black artists. By doing a quick Google search, you can find hundreds of books, albums and artwork. This is a great way to not only celebrate the achievements and accomplishments of the creators themselves, but also to enjoy incredible creativity and ingenuity.