I need to preface this by being seriously fucking honest about something: I was not going to do anything for Black History Month. I considered it, because I have it marked on my calendar, and my gut response was “no, it’ll seem performative if I start banging on about it.”
Thankfully, I checked myself because let’s be clear: my fears or concerns about how I could potentially be perceived by anonymous faces on the internet is not and will never be as important as honouring and celebrating the heritage, struggles and achievements of a gigantic chunk of this planet’s population.
First, a comment on the concept of Black History Month (February in the US, October in the UK)… I’ve always hated it. Along with Hispanic Heritage Month (15th Sept – 15th Oct), South Asian Heritage Month (18th July – 17th August), Jewish American Heritage Month (May), Asian-Pacific Heritage Month (also May), and Women’s History Month (March).
It has always irked me that the history of an entire culture is celebrated during this one short spurt of time, and pretty much ignored the rest of the year… but is that a good enough reason to ignore it altogether?
(No. No it isn’t.)
So what can we actually do, as card-carrying members of the White Privilege Brigade to celebrate Black History Month in an ethical way?
Read books by Black authors
One of my personal commitments during Black History month is to only read books written by Black authors. I’ve always been the “nose in a book” girl, and reading is absolutely the thing that shaped my view of the world by opening my eyes to so many different perspectives.
I am now choosing to be even more intentional about the voices and perspectives I open myself up to.
If this is something that you’re interested in implementing, here are some books by Black authors that I have loved:
Well-Read Black Girl by Glory Edim
My Sister, The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
The Last Black Unicorn by Tiffany Haddish
Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes
You Were Born for This by Chani Nicholas
Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo
We’re Going to Need More Wine by Gabrielle Union
Literally anything by Langston Hughes, Maya Angelou and Barack Obama
And here are some that I have lined up for this month:
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
Becoming by Michelle Obama
Mouth Full of Blood by Toni Morrisson
Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo
Gingerbread by Helen Oyemi
Listen to speeches by Black leaders
Everyone loves a TED talk, right? Well, that’s not the only place to find speeches that need to be heard. As coaches, healers and online service providers we all love immersing ourselves in personal development and expansive thinking. If that feels true for you, challenge yourself to read or watch a different speech from a Black thought leader every single day this month.
Here are a few to get you going, but I *highly* recommend you do your own research here too.
(I would love for you to share any great speeches you find with me so I can add them here)
I also feel like there needs to be a special mention here for literally every word ever said by Michelle Obama. I couldn’t even choose which speech of hers to share here so just go YouTube all of them now.
The same goes for pretty much every episode of Red Table Talks.
Donate to organisations that support Black communities
There are so, so many amazing causes out there that do such important work, and I don’t have a broad enough knowledge to give you a full list of suggestions. When it comes to giving money to a cause, there a few things I ask myself:
- Does the mission align with my values?
- Will this make an impact in my local community?
I’m not dismissing the work of National or International charities, but I do think the smaller organisations get considerably less airtime, so that’s where I choose to put my money.
That being said, if you’re looking for a cause to support, here are some helpful round-ups to kickstart your research:
- 10 Anti-Racism Charities in the UK You Can Donate To
- Black Organisations Supporting Young People
- 174 Ways to Donate in Support of Black Lives and Communities of Color
Educate ourselves on Black history
And when I say “Black history” I mean SPECIFICALLY from the perspective of Black historians. If you need some help with where to get started, check out the audiobook version of Black & British: A Forgotten History by David Olusoga.
Amplify the voices of Black creators and business owners
How often do we all (myself included) share pithy quotes and insightful posts in our Instagram Stories?
And how intentional are you about ensuring that those thoughts and stories you elevate and share with your audience are from a diverse selection of creators?
Continue to pay Black-owned businesses for the work they do in the world
Goes without saying but STILL.
Listen to Black friends and peers without imposing your worldview on them
We can all have empathy for what others have been through and still not TRULY be able to understand their lived experiences.
What that means in practicality is… when someone is openly sharing something they’ve dealt with in your life, don’t do that thing where you respond with: “Yes, I felt the same when XXX.”
Often, this kind of behaviour comes with good intentions – you want the people you adore to feel heard and understood… but that’s not typically the impact it has. It can turn into another instance of a Black voice being silenced or squashed so that you can share yours.
Stay committed to dismantling racism and prioritising equity in your business
This is not a topic I could ever hope to summarise in a single paragraph, nor is it something I claim to be an expert in. Instead, I would like to draw your attention to some of the many women who have helped to educate me (and continue to educate me) on this:
Juliet C Obodo – Her business is not specifically about dismantling racism (she’s a million dollat hypnotist), but she has shared some extrememly valuable posts, videos and trainings on the topic.
Trudi Lebron – Trudi provides coaching and consulting to entrepreneurs at all stages of business who are ready to take an impact-driven, equity-centered approach to their work, business, and leadership.
Louiza Doran – In her own words: “It’s my mission to hold the torch and lead folks on their decolonization and anti-racism journey. You cannot create an equitable, diverse and inclusive society without guiding people through their decolonization process and teaching and empowering individuals to walk in their purpose and power.”
Quiana and Bobbi – These two humans are a couple of my fave people on the Internet (nay, world!). Both of them have taught me so much simply by allowing me to be in their world, so go give both of them a follow now. (If you need extra incentive, the both have the cutest dogs.)
Remember that all of these suggestions are things you can stick with all year long, not just during the moments Black lives and Black history are being commemorated in the media.
If there is anything that you feel is missing from this article, please reach out to me here.