Exploring the Breadth of
Black History Month
The disasters of 2020 make this Black History Month very special and compels us to celebrate in new and innovative ways. Disasters such as the tragic video-taped murders
of Black people, and the resulting protests for justice. COVID-19 killing more African Americans and people of color among the 462,000 Americans who died as a result of the
disease, and the impact of an evil president on American mental health and the economy. It is more important than ever to celebrate the best of ourselves, our traditions, our
culture and our history. I get happy in February as I sing an internal song of getting my Black On! It such a brief time that the U.S. gets flooded with Black History messages,
movies, events and food and I enjoy it to the maximum.
I am grateful to Dr. Carter G. Woodson, considered the father of Black History and the Association for the Study of African American Life and History that he and friends founded,
which created a week in February, 1926 that has evolved into Black History Month. Dr. Woodson hoped that one Black History Month would disappear because Black History
was truly incorporated into the fabric of American thought life and education. That hasn’t happened yet. I visited the Indigenous Summer Festival in Milwaukee one year, and it
was an important glimpse into another world. Not just the people, their clothing, their foods, and their cultures were being shared, but everything was in Indigenous languages
too. I was in Indian Country.
Celebration and positive affirmation are important to keeping us thriving and resilient. Let us all create a Black Country this February by weaving Black people, clothing, foods,
and culture around us. Make your own list of ways to celebrate, but here are some of my ideas to immerse ourselves.
1.Start with Africa, by unlearning the negative views of our mother country. Read a book about African civilizations or go on-line for an African History lesson. Learn about the
African Explorers who traveled to the U.S. and back, before slavery in They Came Before Columbus by Ivan Van Sertima.
2.Read about Black History and enslavement in the world, in the U.S. and in Wisconsin in a book or on-line. Africa’s Gift to America by J.A. Rogers, Blacks in Wisconsin by Dr.
Zachery Cooper, Dark Work: The Business of Slavery by Dr. Christy Clark-Pujara. We are waiting for Dr. Clark Pujara’s book on African Americans in Wisconsin.
3.Talk to family members and friends about ways to free the mind of a slave or colonial mentality and successful strategies you have utilized to overcome racism.
4.Telephone the oldest members in your family and ask them about family history. Write down what they say and ask questions. Ask why your family moved from the South or
where are your family origins and how did you come to live in Wisconsin.
5.Support Black business, organizations and institutions DELIBERATELY
during this month. Buy Black coloring books for your children, get take-out from
Black restaurants, buy what you need from Black businesses, even if it mean
extra effort or waiting for shipped orders.
6.Look for items and artifacts in your home that express Black culture and
traditions. What are the stories behind Grandma’s quilts on your bed? Do you
have Black art in your home? What family stories are connected to a piece of
furniture or glassware? Make sure you get a free copy, by American Family
Insurance, of Let’s Talk About It! A book commemorating the murals on State
Street and the artists who created them.
7.Have a dance hour each day to Black music from Spirituals, to Jazz, to Soul,
R&B and Hip Hop. Go through all the dances you can remember to the music
you love. Try new artists and ask the younger family members to teach you the
8.Only watch Black movies, T.V. shows, and plays on-line and on television.
Note how your perspective changes when you immerse yourself in Black
images. Be selective based on your mood and whether you want to think
deeply or laugh wildly. Stations and on-line services are running productions
with Black characters this month. Amazon prime has a Celebrate Black Joy
series for Black History Month.
9.Wear Black Designers. You might have a WillieWear item in your closet like
me, and there are Black designers both local and nationally that you can afford
to wear, whether it is Tracy Reese who designs for Michele Obama or LaQuan
Smith who designs for everyone.
10.Cook across the Black world. In honor of Black History Month, why not
trying cooking different Black cuisines from around the world? Learn the
history of Okra that traveled from Africa to America. Okra can be cooked in
more ways than fried and boiled. Hoppin John is a rice and peas, southern
dish that goes by another name with different spices in the Caribbean and
Africa. Try your hands at Jamaican rice and peas and Nigerian moi moi. Your
taste buds will be glad for this delicious journey.
I have other ideas that include visiting Black museums on line, telephoning a
Black family member or friend and thanking them for kindness, researching the
Black Lives Matter Movement, supporting a Black leader or organization with
a financial donation, laughing your head off with Black comedians. One of my
favorites is Sinbad and I don’t get to see him enough. When I watch his
“Sinbad Where U Been” video I laugh at his jokes again and again. How about
gathering family photographs and labeling, dating and making copies for
everyone so that this photographic legacy will not be lost. As a poet, a
suggestion is to write poetry about all that is important in your life while you
focus on staying physically and mentally health in the winter months. This is a
short month, but you can do one thing each day to celebrate Black people and
our fascinating ways. Happy Black History Month.