It is Black History Month, and we’re at the midpoint! If you haven’t done anything yet to celebrate, allow me to invite you to do any or all of the following:
1. Support your local, non-gentrified, authentic Black-owned establishment.
Don’t just peruse, buy something! Do your research. There are a lot of vegan (and non-vegan) soul food restaurants out there that are not owned by black people. Check out Detroit Vegan Soul if you are in Detroit, Michigan. Vegan soul food is like Thanksgiving but you were too late for Turkey and it is all good.
If you are into bath and body products, don’t go to Lush for a good body butter. Check out Body Scrubs by Rebecca!
2. Volunteer at a school to read books that are unapologetically black.
For the younger kids, might I suggest Mary Had A Little Glam? It’s that same bland story about Mary — with the pizzazz that only Black Girl Magic can bring to that drab-ass nursery rhyme.
3. Attend an African dance class.
In every major city — and some minor ones — there are traditional African dance classes. Even some with live drums! All dance experience levels are always welcome. Classes are sometimes free, but it is customary to bring a donation for the drummers. Classes usually top out at around $15 for a 1.5-hour class, and people prefer cash. Check out Duante Fyall’s donation-based class if you are in Los Angeles.
4. Purchase African and African-inspired clothing from diasporic clothiers.
Before you decide to buy that ‘funky tribal’ print at H&M, consider supporting actual African shops that aren’t culturally appropriative. Different Ankara fabrics communicate a bold lifestyle, inner confidence and culture. There was a time when African prints were made into unflattering muumuus, but now you can get everything from swimsuits to pant suits, from sizes XS to 4X. Check out Zuvaa.com and join their mailing list to be notified of a local pop-up. D’iyanu has clothes for the entire family.
5. Visit your local African American History Museum or collection.
There is some type of collection of African or African American heritage in every major city. You need only Google it out. In Detroit, there is the Charles H. Wright, which is offering free admission for February, and in Washington, D.C., the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American Heritage and Culture is always free; you just need to get tickets ahead of time. If you are in Louisiana for Mardi Gras, check out the Whitney Plantation — the only preserved plantation in the south dedicated to the history and stories of slaves, and not the slave owners. Chile.
6. Attend a Harambe Sunday service.
Before they shot that gorilla with the same name, Harambe Sunday was a thing on the last Sunday of Black History Month where black people go to black Southern Baptist church dressed in their best African clothing. The pastor always delivers an impassioned ceremony filled with Black love and pride. Usually vendors will come, along with dancers and drummers. The kicker: Pastor uses the same scripture that was used to keep Black people enslaved to empower the congregation. It is something to behold. Find your local black friend’s grandmother for sermon times and locations.
7. Sunday dinner.
There is nothing more Black than a well-cooked Sunday dinner. It is our Shabbat. Grab a group of friends to have over for fellowship Sunday evening to share love and food. It’s like Thanksgiving for no reason. All of this will surely set your week off in the right direction.
8. Discover black culture through music.
Soundcloud is bursting with some new, underground black artists who offer narratives of the Black American experience. If you want to go mainstream, you can go that way, too. Go back in time with KRS One, Marvin Gaye, Lauryn Hill, and Queen Latifah.
9. Watch a movie/TV show.
By a black director. About black people. This may, too, require research, because there are some culturally incompetent people who work for BET. Lifetime Movies are never allowed. Tyler Perry films are not permitted in the name of Black History Month.
You can begin your journey with Ava DuVernay’s 13 or Queen Sugar. You can’t go wrong with any Spike Lee, who is black film royalty. Follow it up with the classic Cooley High, cry through The Color Purple, or Precious if you are feeling bold, and close it out with the hilarious Coming to America. If you are willing to leave the house, check out I Am Not Your Negro, Fences, Moonlight or, if you are feeling interested, Get Out by Jordan Peele in the theaters.
10. Read something.
Maya Angelou, Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes, Chimamanda Adichie, James Baldwin, Tupac Shakur, Octavia Butler. This list spans eternities. Get a book, crawl into your reading nook and experience this blackness. In D.C.? check out Sankofa Video and Books Cafe.
11. Listen to our stories.
No one can represent for black people other than Black people. Black podcasters have been using the microphone as loud confessionals to tell our stories. This Black History Month, I implore you to find a podcast about unapologetic Black self-expression. Might I suggest Another Round, The Read or The Friend Zone? The goal of listening to this is not to change you, but to provide insight and understanding to the Black experience. So the next time someone makes a public microaggression, we can collectively cross our arms and raise an eyebrow.
On a side note: you really can do these things — on purpose — all year long. Happy Black History Month!