Black History Month is a narrow window within the year dedicated to celebrating the extensive stories and accomplishments of African-Americans.
Our history drew the short straw of the year, and although we’ve come a long way in celebrating the month, and even having a month to begin with, we have to remember that Black history deserves more than just 29 days.
Black history is often treated as separate from American history, but the contributions and triumphs of African-Americans is more American than anything. The history deserves to be considered, admired and talked about all 365 days of the year and then some.
Here are five ways we can do exactly this:
1) Attend Black history events in your community.
There are events surrounding Blackness that occur throughout the year. You can find out about them through local libraries, Facebook groups or Eventbrite. We have to show up squad-deep for these programs that highlight the Black experience during the year to show there’s an interest in Black issues, stories and culture. The more people show up, the more serious others will take these events and want to support them.
2) Spread knowledge about unknown Black figures.
We all know, love and respect popular Civil Rights Icons like Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and Malcolm X. We should continue to praise their work and heroism, but we also need to know about the history makers who didn’t make it to our textbooks who came before and after.
There’s Mansa Musa, the richest man in modern history, Dr. Alexa Canady, who became the first Black female surgeon in 1981 and so many more. There’s a lot we don’t know about, and it’s our job to tell the whole story of Blackness, including stories that others would prefer to leave out.
3) Teach the lesser-known history to the youth.
I will say this time and time again. IT STARTS WITH THE YOUTH. To see change, we have to start with the younger generations while their minds are still growing and open. If the schools aren’t going to teach us about other figures besides Martin Luther King Jr., and want to continue painting the picture that Christopher Columbus was just a courageous explorer, then we have to make sure our children know the whole truth.
We’ve all been taught the same history for decades, and then we may go off to college and learn lessons that contradict our previous teachings in a Black history class. Not all of us make it to college, so even if a child doesn’t pursue an education after high school, we still have to give that child the basic truths about how our country was truly created and the history of where people of African descent have come from.
4) Patronize Black businesses.
We not only need to celebrate the history of the past but the present as well. Contributing to our communities financially goes a long way in sustaining our current movers and shakers who will be the history makers of tomorrow. I understand in certain places, like Long Island, it can be hard to find Black businesses.
There are resources like the Black Long Island Facebook page, where you can search for different services. There are also apps and websites such as Official Black Wall Street and WeBuyBlack (We also have a little something coming for you so be on the lookout). Try to make it a goal to patronize at least two businesses per month and go from there.
5) Support HBCUs.
Even though I didn’t attend an HBCU, I still see the value in these historic institutions. Without them, I wouldn’t have even been considered for any colleges. These schools rely more heavily on government funding than other institutions. The battle for funding has been ongoing since the founding of HBCUs, and in the past seven years, three universities closed its doors for good. However, there’s still hope. Congress passed a bill that restored $255 million annually to help with STEM education at HBCUs. In this year’s spending bill, an additional $42 million was approved for HBCUs. But, we have to keep this energy going.
Here are five concrete ways that we can keep the history of African-Americans alive and present in the minds of all Americans and beyond. Let us know what you guys think can be added to this list.