In a year that Black Americans have seen both extreme highs, the first elected Black woman vice president and Black Georgia senator (not to mention the meteoric rise of Stacy Abrams), and lows, continued police brutality and disproportionate health and economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, Black History Month feels more important than ever. So how can you get involved? Here are 20 things—big and small—you can do celebrate and honor the Black American experience. Psst, this is just a starting point; let these 28 days morph in a year-long (or life-long) practice.
20 Things (Big & Small) You Can Do to Support Black History Month
1. Adjust Your Vocabulary
Take Black History Month as a time to recalibrate your vocabulary. You’ve seen the word “BIPOC” floating around, but you haven’t stopped to understand it. Well, here’s a quick read for you. And is it “Black” or “African American”? You probably need a refresher on identity and race vs. ethnicity. And did you know that using “enslaved people” and “enslavers” is preferred over “slave” and “master”? The reason being that the latter emphasizes the humanity of the people who were forced into slavery and those who did the forcing.
2. And while you’re at it, learn how to pronounce Kamala Harris’s name correctly
It’s one tiny act but saying our VP’s name incorrectly has bigger cultural repercussions, which you can read all about here. And heads up: It’s Comma-lah.
3. Talk to a friend about why Black Lives Matter is important
You know why BLM is important, but you still have friends or family members who are saying things like “all lives matter.” It can be intimidating to get into a debate that undoubtedly spirals into semantics so prepare your response for the next time this convo comes up.
4. Get more Black voices onto your bookshelves
Whether you’re into cookbooks, history, novels or YA, you can diversify what you consume and surround yourself with. Nab some books by Black authors from the library or a Black-owned book shop in your area.
5. And your feed
Is your social media feed white-washed and heteronormative? Take some time to seek out and follow Black influencers and educators, as well as Black LGBTQIA+ influencers.
6. And Your Queue
Do you tend to watch mostly shows and content with white characters? It’s time to cast a wider net. Check out Netflix’s Black Lives Matter library for tons of picks (we can’t help but recommend Astronomy Club: The Sketch Show for some absurdist, fresh comedy), HBOMax’s Black History Month collection, Hulu’s Black Stories list. Check your local library for some additional resources.
7. And definitely watch Paris Is Burning
The iconic documentary that inspired FX’s Pose, Paris Is Burning, highlights a crucial moment in American queer history: the 1980s Harlem dance balls that feature many Black gay and trans youth.
8. Listen to 1619
The audio series from The New York Times is hosted by Pulitzer-prize winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones and it “examines the long shadow of American slavery.” But that description hardly scratches the surface of this emotional and harrowing podcast. If you only know about the “peculiar institution” that was American slavery from what you learned in school, think of this five-part series as a free education. From 1619—when the first enslaved Africans arrived—to modern day, you’re in for a paradigm shift that will change the way you see the country. (And when you’re done with this one, here’s a list of additional podcasts that will help you learn about racism and race in America.)
9. Support Black-owned businesses
Buying a birthday present? In desperate need of some new art for the nursery? Celebrating an anniversary with take-out? From clean beauty, plant parenting, Etsy crafts to haircare, fashion and food, take an extra beat this month to think about where your dollars are going and who they’re financing. Let your wallet do some of the talking.