When Black History Month Is Over, The Work Continues
Celebrating Blackness year-round is a practice that leads to a more equitable society for everyone
The end of February marks the end of Black History Month. In our home, we educate our kids about Black history all year round, but this month presented an opportunity for an extra celebration of Blackness —Black joy, Black history, Black future. It’s a time when we as a society are joined by social media and corporate America as we lean into acknowledging Black figures in history. This month holds so much meaning for so many. At the end of Black History Month, though, many people move on and shift their focus to the next month’s topic. But part of committing to anti-racism includes recognizing that historical marginalization of Black people could be just that — history.
What if we all committed to truly honoring Blackness all year round? What if parents made it a priority to center Blackness in homes, communities and workplaces from January through December?
Here are 5 ways to do just that:
Reframe your perspective on Black History Month.
February isn’t just a month to commemorate Black history. It should be the anniversary of commemorating Black history. Continue your anti-racist practices by committing to uplifting Blackness in all the spaces you occupy. While Black History Month provides a reason to center Blackness, committing to celebrating Blackness year-round is a practice that leads to a more equitable society for everyone. Blackness isn’t a trend or a temporary cultural acknowledgement. It’s an identity that is manifested through —and steeped in — joy and celebration and strength. Though Blackness exists alongside a context of suffering, slavery, pain, racism, and white supremacy, it is also about realizing the incredible resiliency of Black identities.
The Movement For Black Lives, an organization that is a leader in the struggle for Black liberation, has been focusing on a visionary futuristic take on Blackness. I particularly relished in their video imagining what the future would look like with true Black liberation.
Examine the ways in which you centered Blackness in February and commit to continuing to engage.
Examine the work you did during Black History Month to commemorate its significance. Did you take time to seek out Black historical figures to talk to your kids about? If you’re a teacher, did you include a curriculum around Black history? Did you post images of Black figures on social media and take the time to do research on their impact? Whatever you did, find ways to make it sustainable. Commit to a continuous practice that centers Blackness and make it as much of a priority for the other 11 months as you did in February.
Celebrate the Black people who are making history right now.
Black History Month is not only a time of celebration and reflection. It’s also a time to focus on the Black people alive right now who are actively making history — and that’s something to keep in focus through the year. Teach your kids about our present-day Black figures. Teach them about Assata Shakur, Issa Rae, Kamala Harris, Stacey Abrams, Viola Davis, Misty Copeland, Steph Curry, Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett, Amanda Gorman, and others. If your child is particularly interested in the arts or sciences or another area, seek out Black leaders in those spaces to educate them about. Blackness is to be celebrated, not just in history, but in the here and now.
Advocate for Black history and Black culture to be included in your child’s education at school.
I have had conversations with my child’s school about racism and how to discuss race with kids from a young age. If you’re white or a non-Black POC (person of color), show up as an ally for us and use your voice to insist that your child’s school include accurate historical references pertaining to Blackness and that it includes a curriculum around racial justice. Black Lives Matter at School is a great place to start. If you’re looking for guidance on how to start to advocate for this at your kid’s school there are some great resources for you to pull from.
Ensure that your focus on Black issues is not solely focused on popular culture.
Black History Month is necessary and crucial but Black identity is nuanced and multi-layered and too vast to be marketed in neat boxes for a celebratory month. Ensure that, even as you point your children to Black history-makers and you read books to them about Black protagonists, that you also teach them that Black people don’t need to be prolific and outstanding to deserve respect and personhood. Teach them that Black people come from a rich but complicated and difficult history that, as is the case for many African Americans, involves suffering and pain as a result of slavery that to this day still significantly impacts current generations. Teach them that Black people are not a monolith and that Blackness manifests in different ways around the globe. There are countries where Blackness is the dominant culture. Take the time to educate your kids about these varied identities.
As we head into March, commit to prioritizing racial equity habits in your homes, schools, and communities. Black History Month is a beautiful month of celebration and joy. What Black people need along with a dedicated month is a world that is rooted in racial justice and equity for all, a world that is rooted in systems that uplift and honor Blackness in every facet of society.
#OneAction To Take Today:
Do some research and support the work of a Black-led organization that is centered around Black liberation like Black Visions Collective.
Raising Anti-Racist Kids is a column written by Tabitha St. Bernard-Jacobs focused on education and actionable steps for parents who are committed to raising anti-racist children and cultivating homes rooted in liberation for Black people. To reach Tabitha, email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Instagram.