February is a busy month in my home. My birthday is in February, so is El esposo's. So is my dad's, which coincidentally is the same day as El esposo's. That's weird right? And then sandwiched between our birthdays is Valentine's Day. Of course we also celebrate George and Abe's birthdays too with a day off from work and school. But the biggest celebration of all in the month of February has to be, Black History Month. That trumps all of our birthdays and excuses to eat cupcakes with pink frosting.
Wait, are you surprised? Are you telling me that in your house Black History Month isn't heralded as 28 days of fun and excitement? Of delight and wonder for the whole family? Maybe that's because you're not celebrating it properly. Or maybe because you are not Black, you've always felt that Black History Month wasn't for you or about you, so you just kind of let it pass you by. Well not anymore. I'm going to give you some how-to tips so that you too can enjoy Black History Month like a pro, and then in subsequent years, you'll look forward to February as much as I do.
So without further ado, here are: Five Tips to Help You Enjoy Black History Month
1. Read a book by a Black author! And I don't mean a dry, historical tome with big words that won't fit in your purse. I mean a really good, juicy novel or heart wrenching memoir by a Black author that seems interesting to you. It could be a romance, a comedy, or even a thriller. It just cannot be written by Toni Morrison or Alice Walker. Are you stuck because you don't know any Black authors? Well, don't despair, just click on over to my friend Carleen's wonderful website where she recommends all types of books written by Black authors for your enjoyment. You will definitely find something you like. And if you're too lazy to even do that, just go pick up a copy ofWench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez.
2. Go out to eat at restaurant that is owned by a Black person, or has a Black executive chef. Now, before you wrinkle your nose in distaste because you don't like collard greens, fried chicken or chitterlings, let me tell you, Black chefs don't just make soul food anymore. They have expanded their repertoire. If you live in New York City, you could dine on gravlax and cloudberries at Aquavit, owned by Ethiopian chef extraordinaire, Marcus Samuelsson. He's black. Or if you live in my new home town of Philly, you could check out Iron Chef Jose Garces' new Peruvian/Chinese restaurant, Chifa. Why? Because Chifa's chef du cuisine, Chad Williams, is Black. So as you're munching on Swedish meatballs or ceviche you can say to yourself, 'man, Black people really can throw down in the kitchen. I had no idea Black History month could be so tasty!'
3. Go to a movie with at least one significant Black leading character. But it can't be Denzel's new flick, Princess Tianna doesn't count because she's not real, and Tyler Perry cannot be involved. Oops. scratch that. I don't think this one is possible. But you can go to the video rental store, or search on netflix for a good movie with Black characters in it. But just to stretch people, you may not watch The Color Purple or Roots. We have moved on as a people. Want some suggestions? Okay. In no particular order; Anything by Spike Lee, but try The Miracle at St. Anna for something a little different from Spike. The Hurricane, starring Denzel Washington. Ali, starring Will Smith, Akeelah and the Bee for those of you with kids, and Eve's Bayou, directed by the very talented Kasi Lemmons. These are some of my personal favs. For more suggestions, check out, I Love Black Movies.com.
4. Just for kicks, try to imagine how Black people feel about current events. Try to get into our skin and see how things may be different. Not into role playing? Well then, for the month of February, just bookmark The Root and read the news as it is reported by Black reporters. If you want an alternative to The Root, visit, NBC's The Grio.com. They have more video on their site for those of you who don't like to read all that much.
5. And finally, this is the big challenge but you have a whole month to try to accomplish it. Try to find a Black friend. Really, make the effort to make friends with someone who is Black and see how your life changes. (spoiler alert: Having a Black friend probably won't change your life at all.). If you live in a part of the world where there just aren't very many Black people, well you can try to find a Black friend on Facebook. Heck, I'll be your friend. Just go out there and do the work to stretch beyond your comfort zone. Why? Because ultimately Black History month is not about going back into the past, it's about celebrating the here and now. By celebrating the authors, chefs, musicians, politicians, teachers, moms and dads of color of today, we are acknowledging the ones that came before.
I say Black History Month should be lived in the present day. It should be about celebrating the diversity and beauty of Black culture. As a Black person, I would really love it if people acknowledged our artists, authors, cuisine, intellectuals, and politicians of today, instead of only reaching into the past to find the Black greats. Not that they don't deserve mention, but their profound legacy needs to be incorporated with the rest of American history in the text books and history lessons, not segregated into one short month. Instead, leave the month of February for celebrating how cool we are today.
Happy Black History Month! What are you going to do celebrate?
p.s. (Here's a little bonus: You can continue to celebrate these 5 tips March - January!)