Black History Month is a month-long celebration of the contributions, triumphs and determination of Black men and women. In the words of former pesident Gerald Ford, it is a time for us to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”
In September of 1915, Carter G. Woodson and Jesse E. Moorland founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, presently known as the Association for the Study of African American Life and History. The ASNLH sponsored a “national Negro History week” during the second week of February, which aligns with “the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.” Inspiration was sparked and what was then known as “Negro History week” spread from college campuses to local communities and eventually became Black History Month as we know it today. In 1976, Black History Month was officially recognized by Ford.
Every year, a theme is chosen for Black History Month. The theme for 2021 is the “Black Family: Representation, Identity, and Diversity.” Black families, all the way back to the times of slavery, have been given the same narrative and countless stereotypes. The African diaspora “ha[s] been long portrayed as the black family at large,” according to the ASALH. The long withheld coverage of Black families as living in poverty and crime-driven is extremely damaging. Instead, the beautifully diverse and complex black family tree needs to be acknowledged.
Here are some ways that you can celebrate Black History Month this February.
Black History Month was founded with the purpose of education. Black history is oftentimes largely overlooked and ignored and yet no less important. This month, take the time to learn about all things Black history, including unknown figures, quiet accomplishments and powerful movements. Read, watch and immerse yourself in their stories.
Support local Black businesses and museums dedicated to preserving Black history, like the California African American Museum. Donate to campaigns, social justice initiatives and organizations. Your contributions, big or small, are impactful.
The past year has brutally demonstrated that the fight for social justice isn’t an outdated one. George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery are among the countless lives lost to racially prejudiced police brutality. Black History Month not only gives us an opportunity but a reminder, to do what should come second nature: uplift Black lives, movement and culture.