By Eustacia A. English, NRWA DEI Columnist
I love a good theme, and this year's Black History Month theme, “Black Resistance,” explores how "African Americans have resisted historical and ongoing oppression, in all forms, especially the racial terrorism of lynching, racial pogroms, and police killings," since the nation's earliest days, according to History.com.
Let’s dive into what you need to know about Black History Month and how to celebrate it this year.
Black History Month, which began as a week-long celebration in 1926 by Carter G. Woodson, is an annual celebration of African American achievements and a time to recognize their central role in US history.
Black History Month was first recognized by President Gerald Ford in 1976. In a speech, President Ford encouraged Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history." Since his administration, every American president has recognized Black History Month, and Congress passed National Black History Month in 1986.
Other countries, such as the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and Ireland, celebrate Black History Month in October. Black American history was the main emphasis of Black History Month when it was first observed in the U.K. in 1987. However, Black British history has gotten more attention over time, with the celebration now focusing on African achievements in the U.K.
After teaching Canadian Black history in her classroom, Canada’s first African Canadian Parliamentarian, Jean Augustine, led the charge to establish Canada’s Black History Month. She proposed a motion to Parliament in 1995 that passed with unanimous consent.
I urge everyone to commemorate Black History in February and all year long. Here are three ways to do so.
1. Support Black-owned businesses. Many Black-owned companies are still affected by structural racism, threatening their ability to serve community needs. Becoming a customer is a great way to celebrate a Black-owned business.
Don’t know where to start? Online marketplaces like Miiriya, Afterpay, and We buy black showcases Black-owned businesses in fashion, art, beauty, home decor, and more. You can also find companies by searching for the #blackowned hashtag online.
2. Visit museums that center on Black history and culture. There are plenty of museums that you can visit in person or virtually. My personal favorites are the African American Museum of Philadelphia and the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.
3. Learn about Black figures and their contributions. Black History Month is associated with many well-known historical figures, such as Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. and activist Rosa Parks. You can visit BlackPast.org for a list of other notable Black figures.
This column is a call to everyone to study the history of Black people and establish safe spaces where Black history can be honored, sustained, fortified, and respected. Peace, love, and blessings in 2023 and beyond.
Eustacia English writes the Perspective column, which examines Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) in resume writing and career strategy. She is a 20-year HR and talent acquisition veteran and started Resumes on Demand last year. She also writes on DEI for The Black in HR e-zine. She lives with her husband and two children in Cherry Hill, NJ. Find her online at LinkedIn.com/in/ecampbell05.