February is Black History Month. A month of celebrating the actions and achievements of the African-American community and an opportunity to actively support black women who have guided, inspired and continue to shape its history.
Their stories are often the ones that have been side-lined or erased from the history books. As much by white women as by men.
Black History Month gives all a chance to change that. To correct many of the false assumptions and misrepresentations of black women’s accomplishments across time.
It’s our responsibility. And it should also be our pleasure to raise up the role that black sisters have played in forming and influencing our past, our present and onwards to the future.
So, who’s with me? Let’s start the month with 17 easy ways to celebrate women in Black History:
- Learn more about historically important black women. You can start by checking out these 10 totally boss black women in history.
- Read a memoir, biography, autobiography of an influential black woman.
Some suggestions are:
- Unbought and Unbossed by Shirley Chisholm
- The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
- Becoming by Michelle Obama
- My Life, My Love, My Legacy by Coretta Scott King
- On Her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madame C.J. Walker by A’lelia Perry Bundles
- Year of Yes by Shonda Rimes
- Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More by Janet Mock
- I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
- Lady Sings the Blues by Billie Holiday.
- Attend a cultural event in your community featuring or hosted by black women.
- Research the accomplishments of black women across the arts. Here’s a start:
- Misty Copeland, first African-American principal dancer with American Ballet Theatre.
- Kara Walker, visual artist and filmmaker, and one of the youngest people ever to receive a MacArthur Fellowship.
- Chinonye Chukwu, film director, and the first black woman to win the U.S. Dramatic Grand Jury Prize at Sundance
- Suzan-Lori Parks, American playwright, screenwriter, and novelist and the first African American woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
- Support black-owned women businesses, like this be-still-my-beating-heart luxury wrapping paper company founded by graphic designer, Ashley Fouyolle.
- Visit an art exhibition of work by black women artists. If there are none in your local galleries, contact them and ask why or when there will be?
- Pick a little known black woman from history (and it could even be from your own family) and commit to finding out as much as you can about her life during this month.
At the end of the month, share what you’ve learned with somebody else – your partner, best pal, child, etc.
- Throw off your shoes, turn up Aretha Franklin, and dance like nobody’s watching. (Actually, if you dance anything like me, it’s probably best if no-one is watching!)
Afterward, make sure to check out other black female soul, blues and jazz icons such as Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, and the inimitable Lady Day, Ms. Billie Holiday.
- If you’re a white business owner, consider partnering with black woman-owned businesses, entrepreneurs or freelancers on various projects.
According to an article in Forbes magazine, annual sales at businesses owned by black women are close to five times smaller than for all women-owned businesses.
- Support influential non-profits geared toward black women.
- Check out specific Black History Month exhibitions at local museums and cultural centers, and take special note of the female contributions highlighted as part of these exhibits.
- Have young children in your life? Then read them stories with black female protagonists, like the wonderful Entrepreneur Finds Her Way, co-written by Camalo Gaskin and Aubrey Gail Ferreira.
- Research the role that African-American suffragists such as Sojourner Truth, Mary Church Terrell, Fannie Barrier Williams, and Ida B. Wells-Barnett played in achieving American women’s right to vote.
- Donate to a black organization.
- Decide to only read literature by black female authors this month and then continue ensuring that you add more to your TBR list for the rest of the year (and beyond.)
Some books to begin with include:
- The Color Purple by Alice Walker
- Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
- An American Marriage, a novel by Tayari Jones
- Beloved by Toni Morrison
- Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
- The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis
- Passing by Nella Larsen
- Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward
- If you’re a successful entrepreneur, reach out to a struggling black woman entrepreneur to offer guidance, motivation, and practical support.
- Organize a weekly film night for friends and family and select movies made by black women.
Here are some suggestions:
- Daughters of the Dust, by filmmaker, Julie Dash, the first black woman to have her feature film distributed theatrically nationwide;
- The Secret Life of Bees, writer/director Gina Prince-Bythewood’s heart-warming adaptation of Sue Monk Kidd’s bestseller;
- Selma, the gripping historical drama about the 1965 Selma to Montgomery voting rights marches, by award-winning director Ava du Vernay.