After a year that unveiled the depths of systemic racism, here’s how we can learn more about Black culture.
Black History Month, a time to celebrate all the incredible ways Black people and Black culture have contributed to building our republic into the nation it is today. It is a month for learning about how to become better allies to the Black community and learn about their untold history and contributions.
Here are seven ways to do just that.
- Diversify your social media feeds
Often, our social media feeds are reflections of us. This isn’t a coincidence; a social media’s goal is to engage you and keep you using the app for as long as possible. To do this, the feed is tailored based upon your race, gender, age, interests, political affiliation and positive and negative interactions with posts.
This creates a place where people feel safe expressing their opinions because the majority of those engaging with their posts agree with them. However, this also isolates people from the opinions of other groups with different viewpoints. As a result, Black voices are kept in a portion of the internet all their own and limits who sees them, making it difficult for them to be heard.
However, diversifying your media can help break those voices out of their own section of the internet and allow them to be heard by those who follow you. A great place to start is @blairimani on instagram. She is Black, amplifies their voices and provides resources to learn more about the topics she covers.
2. Amplify Black voices
When difficult times erupt onto the scene like the events that took place in summer 2020, we often want to respond to the situation with our own commentary. However, Black people’s voices should be heard, as they are the community that is being affected. Our job is to listen and raise up their voices.
Throughout history, Black people have shared their stories through art, poetry, lyrics, books, documentaries and much more. Yet, many of their stories are rarely spoken about. We can change that by paying attention to these contributions, drawing attention to them and acknowledging their impact and importance in our world.
A great place to start is with some of my poems written by @farajiwrites on Instagram. Her poems tell beautiful stories about her experiences and how she has overcome obstacles.
3. Read, watch, hire and buy from Black authors, designers and businesses.
There are so many wonderful businesses, books, TV shows and YouTube channels created by Black people giving new, intriguing perspectives on a variety of social issues. Making a conscious choice to look for these resources and businesses is important because they are not heavily promoted by social media algorithms.
Once you find them, you will not be disappointed. Some of my favorites include: @jnaydaily on Instagram for fashion, beauty and food content, @aj_forshort for music and dance and @ohhappydani for small business, social media advice and art creation favorites.
4. Diversify your podcast and radio feeds
Many podcasts are not gender or racially inclusive, especially popular ones. Don’t let that discourage you from finding hidden treasures to listen to. Many good podcasts discuss important issues, the news of the world and crucial topics that affect minority communities. This is not only useful for your own personal learning, but supports the efforts of people that do not often get the attention they deserve.
5. Follow Black historians and embrace Black content that revolves around Black joy
We stereotype people based on their gender, race, disabilities or mental wellbeing, and that affects how we treat those people. Learning to look at people for who they are as opposed to what obstacles they face, or what they’re going through is key to seeing someone’s strength, independence and importance. If all you know about another person is the hardships they have faced, you will feel the urge to “save” those who are perfectly independent, which is unhelpful and problematic in itself. Therefore, taking the time to learn about the beautiful and strong characteristics of any culture is an important step to further your understanding and appreciation of those different from you.
6. Read children’s books written by and about people of color
I know it may sound strange, but this is one of the helpful things you can do this Black History Month. Young children often emulate what they see. If they see only the “classics” that we teach in school; they emulate those characters. However, if they are also exposed to modern literature that depicts strong young men and women of color, children will have an array of people to look up to.
Zero to Three, a non-profit research organization, says that what children read at a young age can teach them how to feel about themselves and others. So, exposing yourself to content written for children is crucial if you want to encourage the young minds in your life to value people from all walks of life.
There are many names and stories that should be talked about in schools that are never discussed. In science, Dr. Daniel Hale Williams was the first person to ever successfully complete an open heart surgery. George Edward Alcorn, Jr. was the first person to build an X-ray spectrometer so that we could see distant galaxies.
Perhaps, history is more your thing. Madam C.J. Walker was the first Black self-made millionaire and known for her philanthropy and Black-inclusive cosmetics line. Are you into sports? Arthur Ashe, a tennis player with a resume including three Grand Slam titles, was the first Black player selected to the United States Davis Cup team, and the only Black man to ever win the singles title at Wimbledon, the US Open and the Australian Open.
There is also Garret Morgan, who invented the three-light traffic stop, or Alexander Miles, who invented the automatic elevator doors. These are names that have personally affected the course of our lives and our history, and they should be celebrated.
This month is a time to step out of the frame of mind that we grew up with and seek to learn from the Black voices that surround us but are often muted. Black history is not often taught in school, but it is readily accessible in podcasts, books and articles at your fingertips. Black creators are not advertised or promoted as much on social media, but it is easy to find Black voices from your community and see what creators they follow and learn from them.
Happy Black History Month.