February is indeed Black History Month. But all Black history cannot be contained, explained, and appreciated properly in just 28 days. I value the time set aside to concentrate on our people, who still face racism and prejudice in countless forms, but more is required of us. To be good stewards of our history, or to be a good ally, the story of Black America must weave into the intentional way we live our day-to-day lives – all year long.
What more can we do? I’m so glad you asked! We can take action to move our country forward toward a more just and inclusive society. And there are many ways to honor our rich heritage and traditions. Here are just a few.
Honoring the Past
“Won’t it be wonderful when black history and Native American history and Jewish history and all of U.S. history are taught from one book? Just U.S. history.” —Maya Angelou
Educate Yourself: Commit to learning more about different points of Black history, from slavery and emancipation, through the Civil Rights Era and beyond, to today – when we seem to face new challenges all the time, even as we continue to overcome. Read critically acclaimed books, watch documentaries, and make sure you visit the National Museum of African American History and Culture the next time you’re in DC. It is “the only national museum devoted exclusively to the documentation of African American life, history, and culture.”
Explore Our Culture: Discover diverse works of art produced by African American artists over the course of centuries. There are museums dedicated to these treasured works in most major metropolitan cities. And there are websites exclusive to Black artists that you can patronize to collect it. Take cooking classes in soul food or traditional Ethiopian cuisine. Participate in fairs and festivals in predominantly black communities to connect with the culture in a truly authentic way.
Shaping the Future
Of course, we cannot separate Black History from Black Future. What will you do – not just this month, but all year long – to build a better country for all?
Buy Black: Estimates put the number of Black-owned businesses in the U.S. at more than 140,000 (and Ascentim is proud to be one of them!) By supporting entrepreneurs of color through your purchasing power, you can uplift families and communities and help close the very-real racial wealth gap.
Make Good Trouble: The late Congressman John Lewis left us with this imperative. There are many ways to make good trouble, and so much good comes from it. Lewis was an activist and knew well the importance of organizing, rallying around a cause, and getting involved in government to effect real change.
That means you VOTE in every election at every level of government, from hyper-local, like the school board and county executives, all the way up to the presidential election. Do not pass up the sacred opportunity to make your voice heard and to elect someone who speaks for you. When we all show up at the polls, diversity wins. (Check with the Board of Elections to ensure you are registered!)
Be Loud: We must stand up and speak up in the face of adversity and discrimination. Peaceful protests and rallies for racial and social justice, and amplifying Black voices on social media to give them a broader platform. Normalize diversity, equity, and inclusion by championing it at home, work, and in your community.
“The past is behind us, learn from it. The future is ahead of us, prepare for it. The present is here now, live it. – Thomas S. Monson
Today, make your own checklist of how you will embrace Black history all year round. Then add it to your Outlook or Google calendar, and let’s reconnect next year to celebrate our collective efforts to lift up people and communities of color.
As Black History Month closes, we have something special to look forward to in March. Next up, Women’s History Month – stay tuned!