Black History Month can be an intimidating event to celebrate, especially if you're not a person of color. It might even seem counterintuitive to use the word "celebrate," as a large part of the country's past (especially when it comes to black history) is unjust. We've come up with a unique list of ways you can respectfully celebrate Black History Month, regardless of your skin tone, to pay homage to those who came before us, sometimes risking their lives, so we could live in a more equal world. Keep reading to see how you can turn an enlightening month into a fun one, too.
Studies show that writing while studying is linked to mastering information you want to remember. In that case, try this game with your family. On a stack of index cards, write the stories of different important black leaders (like abolitionist Frederick Douglass, pictured here) throughout American history. On the other side, write their names, or even draw them out (as best you can). Take turns reading descriptions and guessing who the historical figure is to lock significant info into your child's memory this Black History Month.
Inspiration and insight are in the contents of countless books by black authors. Reading with your children, especially books that give them invaluable perspective, encourages them to read on their own and can add to their morality banks. There are incredible books by and about African-Americans that go unsung but that everyone should read. Mark these must-reads off your list and expand your family's view of American literature.
Celebrate February with coloring pages featuring African-American heroes. For kids, coloring pages are fun, and they have brain-developing benefits past their entertainment value. Don't make them use specific colors or focus on the aesthetics. Let them freely express themselves, but take time to explain to them the significance of the black leader on the page. Highlight the contributions they've made in history while you color together, using the visual aid to reinforce the lessons of Black History Month.
Black people are curators of storytelling in a way that deeply enriches the culture. Check events at your local library to expose your family to American history told by local African-American storytellers. If you don't have event options like this near you, there are plenty of great videos online that feature influential black storytellers who pass down the tales that have traveled through generations. Use Black History Month to turn up the mic on American black voices.
Don't have a museum that concentrates on black culture in your town? What a perfect reason to take a road trip! The variety of culture you'll find at different museums throughout the country make any one of the historical reference points well worth the trip. From the Studio Museum in Harlem, N.Y., to the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco, there's an institution not far from you brimming with the assorted history of the descendants of African people.
You know what will keep the kids quiet, focused and can help their vocabulary-building skills? Word puzzles. Entertaining for all ages, they can be used in combination with black history lessons. Themed searches can help with word association, which can deepen your child's comprehension surrounding what they've already learned. There are free Black History Month printable word searches available, but you can also create your own to cater to what your family has learned together.
As profound as they are inspirational, quotes can awaken a deeper understanding in us through effective phrasing. For Black History Month, choose a quote a day to share with your loved ones. Greats like Martin Luther King Jr., W.E.B. Du Bois and Barack Obama are a few of many African-American leaders that left us with words to forever live by. Shine a spotlight on the sentiments of deep thinkers to illuminate your mind.
Not that we need to give you a reason to Netflix and chill, but Black History Month is here and it's time to get the popcorn going. Black cinema ranges from the artistic, including the work of Spike Lee, to more family-friendly movies like "The Wiz." Viewing films about past injustices, like "Ruby Bridges," provides necessary food for thought. Watch movies this Black History Month for and by black people, but ones that also speak to you on an individual level.
There's good reason why Martin Luther King Jr. is remembered fondly to this day. His 1963 speech in which he shared his dream of equality for all are words that everyone needs to be reminded of as we work toward positive social change. Play this iconic speech in the midst of friends and family this Black History Month.
Notice we said to cook soul food, not just eat it. That's because much of what is considered soul food, including collard greens, cornbread and pork chops, is also considered "Southern" food. The difference between "Southern" and "soul" seems slim to none on paper, however, the history attached to authentic soul food stems from ingredients available to slaves, which is why cooking it is such a part of the experience. Immerse yourself in these dishes, along with the attached history.
The African diaspora is the scattering of African descendants around the world due mostly to the transatlantic slave trade. As Americans, naturally we're more knowledgeable of African-American history. This Black History Month, study other black cultures, especially those in the Caribbean. Find out how other cultures connect so directly with your own, and strengthen your family's understanding of cultural differences. Don't doze off this February—stay woke.
Beyoncé and Michael Jackson are great enough gifts to humanity, but black people's contribution to music goes even further. Blues, jazz, rock 'n' roll and even a lot of current pop stemmed from African-American origins. To gain context, pick a genre in the past and listen to black artists who were popular at the time. Your family will enjoy timeless melodies from icons like The Temptations, Aretha Franklin and Stevie Wonder, all of whom still sound good even today.
Did you know that much of the reason the civil rights movement—especially the Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycott—was so successful was because of black-owned businesses? When the bus was no longer an option, black cab drivers lowered their prices. African-American retail owners volunteered their stores as carpool hubs, too. This empowered the civil rights movement and still cements the black community today. Pay homage to these legends by shopping black for Black History Month. Online shopping counts, too!
There's no shortage of African-American charities that you can give to, but which one should you choose? When in doubt, go for the cause the speaks most to you. For instance, if you're a techie, donate to Black Girls Code, which encourages more black women to join the tech industry. Pay homage by paying it forward this Black History Month.
The best and easiest thing to do in recognition of Black History Month is to have a conversation with an African-American person. The best gift you can give to a culture is that of understanding. So, ask questions. Listen. Respond thoughtfully. Be an example to the next generation by showing them that the first step of achieving any kind of unity is a simple "Hello."
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