Because February should be just the start.
February is Black History Month, but that doesn’t mean that our learning, exploration, or celebrations of Black culture should end when March 1 rolls around.
Black history is American history, and Black Americans have contributed to our country’s prosperity and success and encouraged positive change since its founding—which means there are still plenty of things you can do to keep educating yourself and others and to continue showing love to the Black community long after February ends. Here are some of our favorite ideas!
1. Buy from Black-Owned Businesses
We shared some of our favorite local Black-owned businesses with you last week, but there are so many more we weren’t able to include in one short article. Buying from Black-owned businesses means your money is going directly to support small biz owners and dedicated entrepreneurs in your community—people who work hard every day to pursue their own dreams, employ other local residents, and put their profits back into that same community to make it better for everyone. Several Seattle-area news outlets and publications have curated some great (and much more comprehensive) lists this year, so we’re linking to a few below, for those interested in supporting Black businesses every day.
Check out this list from Seattle Refined, which includes an incredible array of restaurants in different neighborhoods around the city, as well as salons, spas, boutique shops, fitness studios, and more.
This list from Seattle Good Business Network has been updated several times since it was first compiled (as recently as January, 21, 2021) and also includes a wide variety of different types of businesses.
Intentionalist.com allows you to search through an extensive database of businesses and filter your results based on numerous criteria, like neighborhoods.
Finally, this absolutely massive collection of 230+ businesses based all over Western Washington, put together by King 5, covers a little bit of everything. If you’re looking for a specific type of shop, service, or restaurant that wasn’t included on the other lists—or if you’re searching for businesses beyond the greater Seattle area—we’re pretty sure you’ll find what you’re looking for here!
2. Seek Out the Stories of Black Historical Figures and Leaders
At every stage of our history, there have been Black Americans leading the way, but these important figures are often glossed over or ignored altogether in the history books. One way to continue to celebrate Black culture is to make it your mission to remember and learn more about the accomplishments of these individuals. If you’re not sure where to start, the resources below are good places to begin!
National Geographic has a collection of African American heroes on its website, where a brief bio on each selected individual is shared along with photos and links to additional information. Designed to educate children, this is a great resource for learners for all ages!
Right here in Seattle, the Northwest African American Museum, located in the city’s Central District, houses a collection of art and historical artifacts and works to celebrate Black experiences through its exhibitions and programs. Check the museum’s website for the latest information on current exhibits, hours, COVID-19 updates, and more.
Many other well-known publications and institutions, like O, The Oprah Magazine, CNN, The Undefeated, PBS, and The Root have informative articles and profiles on Black historical figures (including Black historians!), both world-famous and lesser known.
Shondaland’s must-read list for Black History Month includes a lot of classic and contemporary literature from Black authors, but it also includes some more academic titles as well as biographies and memoirs about astonishing people who’ve made an impact on our country and our culture. Some are still living, like Barack Obama; some we’ve recently lost, like Cicely Tyson—all are worth a read, if you’re hoping to enjoy some seriously captivating stories straight from some of America’s most famous Black figures.
3. Read Antiracist Literature
Especially and most importantly, literature written by Black writers from a Black perspective. There are many, many authors whose work is worth reading and learning from—the links to reading lists you’ll find below are by no means comprehensive, but this is a great place to start if you’re not sure where to begin!
Renowned author and antiracist educator Ibram X. Kendi put together a reading list for The New York Times. Please note that this article was published in 2019, so while it contains many excellent titles that cover a variety of categories, it does not contain new offerings that have been published within the past 18 months.
WBUR, Boston’s NPR affiliate and public radio station, compiled a reading list “for allies who want to do better.” In it, you’ll find great suggestions for everything from history books to memoirs to “race readers” (i.e. tomes that specifically address white supremacy, racism, and how exactly to start doing better).
Bookshop, an online retailer that supports independently owned bookstores around the country, compiled a reading list that focuses on nonfiction titles covering anti-Black racism and antiracist organizing and advocacy movements in the United States.
And of course, you’ll want to buy your books from a Black-owned bookstore! Luckily, O, The Oprah Magazine has a handy list of 125 such bookstores across the United States, all conveniently organized by state.
4. Take Advantage of Digital Learning Resources, Too
There are myriad educational resources available on the internet from reliable sources. And due to COVID-19, many museums and other cultural institutions are now offering patrons ways to visit and/or learn from them virtually, meaning there are even more ways to access information online. Again, the list below is not the end-all, be all, but we hope it gives you a good jumping off point.
The official African American History Month website has an enormous number of exhibits and collections now available to view online, as well as lists of resources to help us all learn more about Black History, including a list made just for teachers. If you’re an educator, or just really want to do a deep dive, you can also visit the websites of the National Education Association (NEA) and the Center for Racial Justice in Education to find additional resources.
The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History launched virtual Black History Month programming throughout the month of February (and yes, there are still some great events to participate in!).
The Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) also organized a virtual festival for Black History Month this year, and several events are planned for the coming week.
Historic Seattle launched a new section of its blog, titled “Seattle’s Full Story,” this past June. Though still relatively new, it already encompasses a variety of works from several local Black contributors—everything from poetry to one-on-one interviews to the candid recounting of lived experiences.
BlackPast.org is a massive online resource center that draws on contributions from historians and academics from around the globe. With sections on African American history as well as the stories of people of African descent around the world, it’s a wonderful (free!) tool for anyone looking to learn more about Black history.
If you’re a business owner wondering what you can do take action now and all year long, check out the NAACP. The organization has many resources available to the public online, including this guidance for businesses and brands.
5. Get Familiar with Black Advocacy and Awareness Organizations
There are organizations at every level—local, regional, national, and international—that work tirelessly to advocate for the rights of Black people and educate all of us on our shared history. You’re probably already familiar with several, but there may be many more you don’t yet know.
The University of Washington’s well-researched list of Seattle’s Civil Rights Organizations is broken down into sections by decade and includes brief descriptions as well as links to more information.
Showing Up for Racial Justice compiled a list of Black-led racial justice organizations, which you may wish to learn more about. It includes links back to the organizations’ websites for more detailed information about their missions and work.
6. Donate to Organizations that Support Black Communities
Perhaps you found an institution at one of the sites above that you can’t wait to support—that’s great! But if you’d like to get familiar with even more groups doing great work both locally and nationally, we have a few more lists for you to check out.
HuffPost’s list of 28 organizations that empower Black communities includes a range of groups, most of which work at the national level.
Charity Navigator, a website that analyzes and shares data on thousands of nonprofits nationwide, aggregated a list of organizations included in its database whose work involves civil rights and/or advocating for and supporting Black communities. You can donate directly via the Charity Navigator website, and the included organizations are broken out into smaller categories, so you can choose a group to support based on what issues matter most to you, like health, education, or community development.
7. Stay Open to New Perspectives and Unlearning
Many of us were taught sanitized versions of massive historical moments and injustices, like slavery, the Reconstruction era, and Jim Crow. It’s what we learned as children, but that doesn’t mean it’s the whole story—unlearning untruths can sometimes be just as important as learning. Simply deciding that you will stay open to learning new things, getting to know new people, and hearing new perspectives—even if they don’t always align with everything you were taught or everything you believe—is a huge step forward in making our city, our country, and our world a better and safer place for Black communities. And if you’ve read all the way to end of this post, we know you’re already on board!
We hope you feel ready to join us in taking some of these actions to celebrate Black history and Black Americans in our communities, no matter the time of year. And please check out the other blog posts in this Black History Month series:
5 Can’t-Miss Black History Month Events
6 Local Leaders You Should Know
9 Black-Owned Businesses You Need to Know About