How to Celebrate a More Meaningful Black History Month

Black History Month means different things to different communities. Here’s how to make the most of it.

The easiest way to celebrate Black History Month might be to slap an MLK quote on your social media page of choice and toss a hashtag its way. I could list examples, but if you’re on Facebook, Insta, or Twitter, you’ve seen what I mean.

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Instead, Holly McGee has a few ideas how you can celebrate, honor, and recognize Black History Month in a more meaningful way.

Which, admittedly, can be tough. That’s because Black History Month represents different things to different communities, says McGee, associate professor in the Department of Africana Studies at the University of Cincinnati. For the Black community, February is a celebration of Black exceptionalism and joy. It’s a celebration of ancestors and history.

For the non-Black community, it’s a time for education.

“Black History Month forces you to take the racial pulse of America,” she says. “What does freedom and equality look like? What does equality look like in the eyes of Black America?”

As she shares her three Do’s (and one Don’t!) of honoring Black History Month, she’s got that education component in mind.

Do: Worship

The No. 1 way to interact with Black History? Go to any Black church.

“The doors to the church are always open,” she says. “That is sacrosanct.”

On Sundays during Black History Month, most Black churches have some type of special programming to honor the ancestors. Being in attendance will give visitors a chance to see the hopes, dreams, and futures of Black churches and the community.

Do: Eat

The adage says to understand another person, walk a mile in their shoes. That could also say “Sit at their dinner table and share a meal.” McGee suggests stopping at a Black-owned food truck, like T’s Heavenly Taste, Topped Fries, Sweets & Meats BBQ, Mama Afrique Nigerian Cuisine, Eliza Jane’s Bake Shop, Maes Country Cooking, Fat Katz Cuisine, Sweet Jazz Treats Bakery, We Do BBQ, and Aloha Tacos, just to name a few.

Do: Learn

Throughout February, UC professors in disciplines ranging from Africana Studies and communications to medicine, history, and more open their classrooms to whomever wants to attend. Guests can sit in on discussions about Black history and widening economic and educational gaps, and why those gaps are getting bigger instead of smaller.

“Engaging in uncomfortable conversations and why things aren’t working (isn’t easy), but we have to have the conversation,” McGee says.

Don’t: Tokenize

To put in the work to educate yourself requires stepping outside of your comfort zone. The trick is to not do the easy thing, which might be, say, asking your Black friend to explain Black History Month.

“Do not ask Black people to do the emotional labor or explanatory work for you during the month of February,” McGee says. “Go read a book. Go sit in on an open class.”

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