Although Black History should be explored, learned about, and discussed all year round, Black History Month is an opportunity to celebrate all things Black culture. Each year, Black History Month centers around a theme that is pulled from a key event in history. Last year’s theme was African Americans and the Vote, which honored the sesquicentennial anniversary of the Fifteenth Amendment (1870) giving Black men the right to vote and the centennial of the Nineteenth Amendment (1920) granting women’s suffrage. This year's theme is The Black Family: Representation, Identity, and Diversity. Black History Month is the perfect time for all of us to recognize and celebrate the triumphs and contributions of Black Americans. If you’re not sure how to go about commemorating Black History Month at your school, here are some ideas to get you started.
Plan an event
Get some friends together and plan an event dedicated to your favorite celebrities or key historical figures. These are just three kinds of events you could coordinate to highlight important voices of Black culture.
PowerPoint party with friends
“PowerPoint parties” started popping up around the internet back in 2018. The concept is to have a party with your friends with the creative twist of giving a short three-minute presentation on something you’re passionate about. This is already a clever idea to do something different with your friends, so why not make it even better and more impactful by making it Black History Month themed? Have everyone create short presentations about important, lesser known Black historical figures. History taught in most public schools saw us learning about staple influential figures like Harriet Tubman and Martin Luther King Jr., who are crucial to American history, but you could make this an opportunity for everyone to learn about other incredible Black men and women you haven’t learned about in school as well.
School movie and music night featuring all Black performers
If your school allows students to plan events in a common area like a student lounge or cafeteria—or perhaps now outdoors, so it can be safe and socially distanced—take advantage of it. Plan an event where students can come have snacks, listen to music, and watch movies. Make a set list of songs of all Black musicians and singers, and your movies choices could feature important Black stories, Black filmmakers, or a predominantly Black cast. You can make it even more meaningful for your classmates by having an appreciation board. Get some kind of corkboard and have students write on paper why they feel certain performers are influential and important people in the Black community and the impact those performers have had on them.
Speak up and show support
Sometimes planning events can be difficult with such busy schedules or if your school doesn’t allow students to plan events like the ones suggested above. But there are still other ways to celebrate and show support. Instead of planning, try getting involved!
Ask your teachers to dedicate class time to discussing Black history
Unless you’re already taking Black or African American studies courses, there’s a good chance a lot of your classes that could be covering Black history topics are not. But Black history is American history, so instead of just letting classes roll on as expected during the month of February, speak up! Ask teachers or professors in any of your classes if they can add a Black studies portion into their lesson plans for upcoming classes or even dedicate an entire lesson to it. While the topic shift could be a little off structure of the typical curriculum for some classes (math courses) than others (history courses), it’s still worth asking professors from a variety of subjects. There are influential Black mathematicians. There are important Black scientists. There are prominent Black lawyers, writers, painters, inventors, and so much more. There isn’t a school subject that hasn’t been changed or progressed by the hands of Black individuals, and you speaking up could bring a whole new depth to the lessons that was previously unexplored.
Volunteer with friends to support Black communities
Volunteering is important, and everyone should incorporate it regularly into their lives. During Black History Month, dedicate your time and energy to volunteering with organizations that support Black communities and causes. Do your research with the resources you have on your campus to find out what opportunities may be available. Or ask someone who knows the area around your school better than you do for suggestions. Make sure, as with any volunteer opportunity, to find credible organizations so you aren’t signing up for scams, and if your schedule allows it, try to set up a couple of different opportunities to help in different ways over the month.
Join safe protesting events that acknowledge and support Black issues
Protesting often comes with negative connotations because we’ve seen protests get out of hand and dangerous in our history, especially for the Black community fighting for their rights. You can always find a safe but impactful way to show your support and listen to Black issues. Protesting can be peaceful, moving, and empowering when you find the right organizations through which to join the cause. The importance of people of all races supporting Black communities and issues cannot be overstated. But if you don’t identify as a Black American, remember a couple of things when providing your support: You are not meant to be a savoir, and your voice should never be louder than the voices of the Black community. Be there to listen, support, and learn from the people around you. The best way to be an advocate for Black rights is to help amplify the voices and stories of the Black community, not speak for them.
Get out and vote
The past year has taught us a lot about the importance of voting, and what better way to pay homage than by exercising your right to do so? Black men and women fought hard throughout history to earn what they should have always had, and it would be a disservice to those men and women not to take advantage of that right. Elections have been a tumultuous time for the Black community in recent years and in many other eras throughout history. The only way to make progress toward a better future is if everyone takes part. Make your voice matter by voting for policies and people that support, fight for, and positively impact the Black community and the issues they face.
Black History Month is important regardless of your race. The Black community is a crucial pillar of American history that deserves even more attention than just the month of February. While these are just a handful of ways you can celebrate and support important causes, never stop looking for opportunities to empower the Black community and, if you’re a person of color, yourself.