Recognizing Black History Month 2021
How You Can Learn, Serve & Give in 2021 and Beyond.
Blog Post, February 2021
“Let truth destroy the dividing prejudice of nationality and teach universal love without distinction of race, merit or rank,”—Carter G. Woodson.
Black history isn’t just a topic to be explored and celebrated during Black History Month. In a world where housing disparity, economic disenfranchisement, and racial injustice still rear their ugly heads, we recognize the importance of truth—that our black and brown citizens have and will continue to shape the American landscape and that the need for a just economy is and should be a powerful mission that drives our progress as a nation united. Our mission at GROWTH is to reverse the impact of redlining and to expose the neglected and unjust history of our fellow Americans in a way that leads to a future of hope and change.
Black history month is more than a simple observance of a neglected past. It is the annual celebration, the recognition, and the acknowledgement of the achievements and contributions of Black Americans and their role in shaping American history. But the stories and perspectives of black Americans only formally took shape in 1915 through the work of Carter G. Woodson, the Father of Black History. He and minister Jesse E. Moorland founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (now the Association for the Study of African American Life and History) an organization dedicated to documenting, researching, promoting, and celebrating the contributions, accomplishments and perspectives of black Americans. In 1926 the group sponsored Negro History week in February, the birth month of both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. Fifty years later, thanks to the far-reaching impact of the Civil Rights Movement and the embracing of black identity and spirit on hundreds of college campuses, Negro Week has transformed to become Black History Month and was officially recognized as a national observance in 1976 by Gerald Ford.
Black History Month is an intentional strategy to honor and promote the struggles and triumphs of black citizens, a means of pushing through barriers that persist to this day despite two centuries of work toward equality. Woodson said, “If a race has no history, it has no tradition, it becomes a negligible factor in the thought of the world, and it stands in danger of being exterminated.” We cannot let that happen. No, we must confront the past and recognize our dynamic and diverse heritage and the contributions of black, brown, woman, other. NOW is the time to embrace opportunities to change the present in meaningful ways. We must work together to bring a future promise of unity to reality for all people regardless of color, race, nationality, and ethnicity. The past is ours to step into and the future is ours to change.
February marks the 95th year of Negro History Week, now Black History Month. At home and in the workplace, it’s important to celebrate in ways that encourage inclusion and honor diversity. It’s equally important to recognize the barriers that remain today. Our mission at GROWTH, an initiative of NCRC, is to reverse the effects of policies like redlining and to remove economic barriers to homeownership. We also celebrate and promote diverse and vibrant communities to include more black and brown individuals and families. Long and short, we make homeownership possible for more people. So, what are you going to do this month and beyond to celebrate, honor, and promote Black History? Even better, how will you promote the future? We’ve got a few ideas:
Learn Something New About Black History Month
Whether it’s black history, the Civil Rights Movement, Redlining, black literature and music, or African American inventors and change makers, learn something new about Black history.
Guest Speakers: Get ready to have your mind blown. While we may not have Amanda Gorman reciting an epic poem at our next work event, there are numerous authors, lecturers, inspirational leaders, and change makers that can engage on a broad range of topics related to Black History and Diversity with your workplace—even virtually in today’s health climate.
Workshops: Teamwork makes the dream work. Have you hosted a recent team building session? Have you discussed diversity and inclusion? We’d all like to think we’re colorblind—especially in the workplace. But ignoring our differences rather than embracing them creates a shadow system of implicit biases. And with more employees working remotely and through a pandemic, a work support network based on trust and respect is critical to our combined success. Be open. Be honest. Move forward TOGETHER.
Book Club: At work or at home, pick up a good read. Fiction. Poetry. Biography. History. There is something for everyone. Try a novel by Toni Morrison or the historical musings of Frederick Douglass. Or the prose of Maya Angelou. Or a memoir by Michelle Obama. Or…the list is limitless.
Black Film Fest: Can you say Black Panther? Wakanda Forever. Looking for something more provocative? Try Moonlight or Dear White People. History more your thing? Try the documentary 13th or the historical 12 Years a Slave.
Black History/Civil Rights Museum: While Covid-19 makes visiting museums and historical sites more difficult, there are still options available. Try visiting a local Civil Rights museum or Black History Center. You’ll be amazed at what you learn.
Serve Others—Ways to Volunteer During Black History Month
There is something to be said for giving your time to others. With our busy schedules and a current health crisis, volunteering truly is a sacrifice. But the benefits far outweigh the inconvenience. Serving others provides vital help to people in need, worthwhile causes, and the community overall. To boot, you’ll enjoy a few benefits as well including improved health, happiness, and an opportunity to learn and grow. Here are few ways to get involved in Black history month.
National Society of Black Engineers: Professional, Student, Corporate Sponsor, there is a way to get involved with NSBE to help people of color prepare for and enter engineering fields, earn degrees, and succeed professionally.
Brotherhood/Sister Sol: Leadership development, educational and college prep programming, sexual responsibility and social justice.
Give Willingly to Black Non-Profit Organizations
Okay. Maybe you don’t have time to volunteer. Financial contributions still help non-profit, social justice, and global awareness projects and organizations march forward on their path to progress and change. Check out these historically Black non-profit organizations
NAACP Legal Defense Fund: The leading organization in fighting for racial justice.
Sentencing Project: A leader in changing the way we think about crime and punishment, the Sentencing project works toward a fair and effective criminal justice system.
Thurgood Marshall College Fund provides opportunities to students to journey to college, through college, and beyond via scholarship, research, and strategic partnerships.
Race Forward builds strategies to advance racial justice and equity in our policies, institutions, and culture.
Equal Justice Initiative is committed to ending mass incarceration, to challenging racial and economic injustice, and to protecting the most vulnerable in our society.
Grow Your Perspective Through Black History Month and Beyond
When February passes, does your interest in Black History month fall by the wayside? Black History Month isn’t just one month of the year. It’s a catalyst that presents an opportunity for us to continue to reflect on and engage with our community in new and fulfilling ways. Challenge yourself and others to keep growing. The road toward equality and justice is long, but we will get there. Together.
“Those who have no record of what their forebears have accomplished lose the inspiration which comes from the teaching of biography and history,”—Carter G. Woodson