Black History Month will soon be coming to a close, but it is not too late to celebrate, donate, and/or commemorate Black excellence, Black history, and Black solidarity. Each year I try to learn about someone in Black history who may not be well known and discussed in the larger public discourse. I also try to learn more about someone beyond just the headlines and their largest accomplishments.
For example, many people only think of Rosa Parks as a mild tempered woman who refused to give up her seat on a bus which helped spark the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycotts. However, many people do not know that Rosa Parks was a fearless rape investigator who traveled across the south in order to bring justice to Black women. In her capacity as a member of the NAACP, Parks also worked specifically on criminal justice issues in Alabama communities and part of her efforts involved protecting Black men from false accusations and lynchings. That is just one sliver of her bio that isn’t discussed widely in our discussions of this brave woman.
This Black History Month I am also taking time to learn more about living legends who are walking among us. I often think of Quincy Jones and his career that has spanned several decades. He worked with musicians from Duke Ellington and Frank Sinatra to Michael Jackson. He arranged jazz and classical music and even created new genres of music. As I watch some of my favorite 1970s sitcoms, I realize Jones was responsible for the musical soundtrack of my youth as a composer for so many important and groundbreaking Black television shows. I can’t watch an episode of “Sanford and Son” without thinking of Quincy Jones and his musical genius.
Last year for Black History Month I opened an account at a Black-owned bank, I downloaded several apps to my phone that were created by Black entrepreneurs, I shopped Black-owned businesses, and I tried to actively learn about past and present Black leaders in various sectors. The internet makes it easy to find Black-owned businesses to support. It may take a few extra minutes to do your research to find Black businesses, but the small amount of time is well worth it to further support Black-owned endeavors.
So, what will you do to celebrate Black History Month? Will you learn an old family recipe? Will you interview an elderly friend or family member and chronicle their story? Will you donate supplies to a Black teacher? Will you help someone register to vote? Or will you purchase and read a book by a Black author?
There are so many things we can do to celebrate this February. Hopefully whatever you choose, you will find yourself filled with a sense of pride and purpose this month.
Christina Greer, Ph.D., is an associate professor at Fordham University, the author of “Black Ethnics: Race, Immigration, and the Pursuit of the American Dream,” and the co-host of the podcast FAQ-NYC.