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How Your Family Can Celebrate Black History Month All Year Round

Get ready to learn from and interact with people of many different cultures.

February 28th will come and go. Another Black History month completed. Your kids did a neat Black History project at school. You learned about Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, slavery, and Frederick Douglass. Now it’s back to normal. But you don’t want it to be. You want Black History month to positively impact how you see your country and see people of different races and ethnicities. You want to figure out how February can be a starting point for celebrating the unique contributions of diverse Americans and not just a time that’s limited to February.

As families, we have less control over what schools teach, society markets, or our government regulates. However, as a family, you can use the month of February to start conversations, enrich your experiences, and learn about different cultures. Hopefully, you’ll ignite a curiosity that can only be filled by continuing to engage in practices that celebrate African Americans’ contributions and the many rich heritages that make up America.

Here are some ways your family can celebrate Black History month all year round. None of this takes much work. It merely takes being intentional. Pretty soon, your kids will look forward to learning from and interacting with people of many different cultures.

Experiences

Often, the best way to learn about a culture and history is to immerse yourself in that culture. 

Each month, visit a black-owned or uniquely black-operated establishment: restaurants, clothing stores, entertainment spots, places of worship, barbershop, boutique, etc. 

You may get a few looks. 

It’s ok. They are only trying to understand why you’re there. 

Choose a day of the month to listen to music from predominantly black artists: jazz, blues, black gospel, hip hop, R&B, etc. (Think Motown Monday or Friday night Jazz.)

Experience the difference. Discuss what’s different from what you’re used to. What made you comfortable or uncomfortable? What’s good about it? What’s similar to what you’re used to?

Education

Visit museums, watch documentaries and movies, and read books.

As a family, choose a few months out of the year (for instance, once a quarter) to learn something new. You may watch a documentary or visit a museum. Read or listen to audiobooks. Libraries are full of children’s books that highlight various achievements and contributions of African Americans. 

You may follow a theme throughout the year—for instance, music. You might visit the National Museum of African American Music, watch documentaries on the Harlem Renaissance, or play jazz throughout your home on Pandora or Spotify. 

Another example—sports. You might learn about the Negro Baseball League, Jackie Robinson, Hank Aaron, etc. 

*Terms to Google: Harlem Renaissance, The Great Migration, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Miles Davis, Tuskegee Airmen* 

Discuss how what you’ve learned has influenced this country. How have the contributions made America a stronger or better nation? What have you learned that was not so positive?

Relationships

Develop authentic relationships with African Americans where you learn about their experiences. Of course, no one person or family represents the entire African American population. You’re learning about the individual and how their experience as an African American has impacted their life. Their experience as an African American will be different than another African American. Eat with them. Spend time together. Go to places of entertainment with them. Initiate conversations to better understand their story. Be willing to be uncomfortable to better understand.

Check your motives in the process. Do it for the right reasons, not just to check off the box to say you’ve done it, but out of a genuine desire to better understand differences. Diversity brings richness to a community that can’t be gained any other way. We have diverse relationships because we all benefit from them.

Curiosity often begets more curiosity. It’s easy to turn the calendar and return to being with those we’ve always been with. Talking to the ones we’ve always talked to. And listening to what we’ve always listened to. 

But we can all be better. We become better through continual exposure, knowledge, and understanding. Let February launch us all to be better.

How Does Our Marriage Promote Cultural Diversity?

Here are 6 practical ways we make it happen.

With Black History Month upon us, my wife and I decided it’s a good time to talk about how we celebrate Black History, not only in February but throughout the year. 

Appreciating diversity has been a core value in our marriage since day one, partly due to necessity. I’m an American, born and raised in rural west Tennessee. My wife immigrated here from rural Southern Mexico. Growing up in a diverse community was a blessing for me. And as a couple, we want celebrating diversity to be part of our family DNA. 

Here’s how we make celebrating diversity a priority in our marriage. (It won’t hurt our feelings if you steal a few of these ideas for yourself!)

Our Friends

We get to choose the friends we want to be in our lives. And those friends often become family. We surround ourselves with people from different ethnicities on purpose, and we’re thankful to have a diverse friend group. We’ve often celebrated the holidays with Haitians, Jamaicans, Central Americans, and those from different parts of the U.S. 

Our Kids’ School

Passing on this appreciation for diversity to the next generation is crucial to us. Fortunately, we live in a place where we can choose the school our kids go to. We chose a downtown school for our son and daughter that celebrates various ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds. This means when our kids are at school, they experience the richness of other cultures and learn from each other.

Media We Consume

Where you spend your time and money shows what you value. We choose to promote diversity through the media we consume, whether it’s music, movies, or TV. We’ve watched films together that celebrate Black History, like 42, Black Panther, and Hidden Figures. Most streaming services have a curated list of movies and shows that promote Black voices. It would be easy to choose one night a week to watch one of these movies or documentaries and talk about them. I’ve gotta warn you, though: as you develop this habit, you’ll start asking why some shows aren’t as diverse as others… and so will your kids.

Voices We Listen To

There are tons of voices vying for our attention. Here’s the thing: we can only listen to voices who sound like us, look like us, and come from where we do. Or we can choose to also listen to those who sound, look, and believe differently. We try to listen to and understand others. Broadening who and what we listen to often shows us we have a lot more in common with others than we ever thought. 

Intentional Conversations 

We look at the calendar to be more aware of ethnic holidays and events like Black History Month. Then we talk to our kids about what they mean because we don’t want them to be afraid or unaware. If our kids ask a question and we don’t know the answer, we say we don’t know. And we’re ok with that. Then we learn together. It’s that simple.

Engaging with Cultures in our Community

Finding and going to cultural festivals in the area throughout the year is a fun way to learn. (Date idea!) These are great (and sometimes FREE) chances to learn about other ethnicities in your community and beyond! You can usually enjoy some fantastic food and unique music while meeting people who are passionate about sharing their culture. (BONUS: Kids will be ready for a nap when you leave. Oh yeah!)

Valuing diversity makes our marriage and family richer. Our kids see this, and they live it out in their friend groups, the athletes and musicians they enjoy, and the media they consume. Bridging the racial gap is a generational choice for us. Keeping the conversation going in our marriage is an essential part of leading our family and promoting diversity in the next generation. 

We’re all different, and that’s ok. Let’s celebrate our uniqueness. 

More on this topic:

How to Talk to Your Child About Black History Month

Deepen your parent-child relationship as you learn together!

If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that we are better together. 2020 exposed the continuing racial divisions we have in our country. But we can move forward and come together to learn about each other’s history and experiences.

As parents, we’re in the best position to help our kids learn values, understand experiences, and build relationships with those in our community who are not the same as we are. We can model how we expect our kids to treat people who are different from us by showing respect for them.

How do you even begin to talk to your child about Black History Month?

Well, there’s no right or wrong way to begin. So, let’s get started!

Who created what we know as African American History Month, and why?

Harvard grad, Dr. Carter G. Woodson, found that African Americans’ accomplishments weren’t written in the history books. As a result, students didn’t learn much about African American contributions to the United States. 

So in 1926, Woodson created Negro History Week to highlight African American contributions to U.S. history. Every U.S. president has designated the month of February as Black History Month since 1976.

Now that you know the origins of Black History Month, you’re ready to research African Americans’ accomplishments! You can also recognize and appreciate the beauty in the differences and diversity in our country as a family. 

You’ll benefit the most if you keep these 4 principles in mind.

1. Be willing to ask questions.

Take a personal (mental) inventory of what you do know about Black History. Then, find out what your child already knows and has experienced. Being curious and asking questions lets them teach you a little bit. They may know way more than you think!

Also, ask your child what they’re interested in. For example, if your kid’s a baseball fan, studying Jackie Robinson, Hank Aaron, or the history of the Negro Leagues would keep them engaged. If your child is into science, learn about Garrett A. Morgan or Lewis Latimer. 

Ask questions like:

  • Have you ever heard about Black History Month? If so, what have you heard?
  • Are you interested in a specific topic?
  • What do you want to learn about?

4. Be willing to be uncomfortable.

It’s ok to acknowledge that you may not know a whole lot about Black History. Parents have to be willing to say, “I don’t know, but let’s find out together.” This tells your child that you are open to learning new things and don’t know everything. There are some ugly and uncomfortable facts in the history of Black people in America. If learning about them causes you to react emotionally, that’s fine. Teaching your child how to identify emotions, whether it’s anger, frustration, embarrassment, or confusion, sets a beautiful example of how to process your feelings.

3. Be open to learning with your child.

There are tons of resources for exploring Black History with your child. 

4. Be open to explore and experience Black culture.

There’s so much to learn and read about the richness of Black History. Exploring and experiencing some cultural practices can enhance what you learn, for sure. Here are some suggestions:

  • Cook a soul-food dinner at home. Or, get take-out from a soul-food restaurant.
  • Listen to music by African American artists.
  • Take a virtual tour of or visit an African American museum near you (follow all governmental guidelines).

Whether your child has a Black History Month project or they’re genuinely curious, you can be your child’s go-to person for information. You have a prime opportunity to help them learn about Black History Month, but you don’t have to stop there. You can deepen your parent-child relationship, and your relationships with others, as you discover Black History together all year long.