To receive the Luxiders newsletter, sign up here.
Despite its recent resurgence, Black History Month was started in 1926. As the only person with enslaved parents to complete a Ph.D., Carter G Woodson came up with the concept of Black History Week. This was a precursor to Black History Month which came into effect in 1970. His aim was to select an allotted time to promote and honour the contributions of black people to society. It is a time to acknowledge and credit black findings and concepts that white people have since taken credit for. It serves as a reminder we must continue to make an active effort to support black-owned businesses, black artists, black creators, and black achievements.
Most importantly, it is important to celebrate black joy. Black people are more than their past and their oppression. Beyond Black History Month, it is vital that white people support people of colour not because they are being told to, but because they want to make an effort to undo the unjust white bias of society.
In the USA, Canada, and Germany, Black History Month is celebrated in February. The month of February was chosen as it coincides with Abraham Lincoln’s birthday; therefore it serves as a reminder that black history is a huge part of American history. In a time where being healthy and happy is more important than ever, this year's theme is wellness and health. The Association for the Study of American Life and History defines it as a celebration of the ‘activities, rituals and initiatives that Black communities have done to be well’.
In modern society, there are many ways to get involved with Black History Month. Many people have the privilege of having access to a plethora of resources which make it easier than ever to use this time to educate yourself on black history, support black charities, black achievements, and black-owned businesses and creators.
There are many in-person and online events you can attend. Here are some suggestions of places to visit and things to check out to learn about black culture.
VISIT A MUSEUM OR ART EXHIBITION
National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis, Tennessee
Located right next to where Martin Luther King gave his speech, this exhibition gives visitors the chance to sit on the bus alongside Rosa Parks, on the very bus that triggered the Montgomery Boycott bus movement in 1955. Alternatively, you could visit the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park in Atlanta. It features the Stone of Hope, a moving symbol of the hope he provided for people of colour across America and beyond. Visiting this exhibition forces you to consider the extremity of racism in America less than 100 years ago. Whilst it is history, it is startlingly recent. Some people may feel we live in a ‘post-racist’ society, but this is far from the truth. We are still dealing with the consequences of the overt racism present in the 1960s. Museums and exhibitions are a privilege to attend, a chance to educate ourselves on the reality of the situation rather than hide from the truth. We need to confront our past to move forward, and many museums and exhibitions can help us do that.
LISTEN TO BLACK MUSIC
Black music has been part of mainstream culture for decades, but what about the history alongside it? There is an amazing history intertwined with the music which is often overlooked. It’s very easy to find out more about the history of jazz, hip-hop, and hybrid genres, all thanks to online archives like the Black Music Library created by Jenzia Burgos, and the #312 Soul project. The Black Music Library features books, articles, podcasts, series, documentaries, samples, and full recordings. It has a plethora of sources on blues, classical, jazz, hip-hop, Caribbean roots, reggae, rock, disco, and more. It is a living collection of sources, regularly being updated with more information and content - there is an endless amount to learn and discover.
The #312 Soul Project focuses specifically on the voices of Chicago. It includes exclusive sound bites from Chicago residents and their experience making and listening to black music. It has everything from 1950-1990, offering an authentic insight into the history of the incredible musicians in the Chicago scene.
ENJOY ONLINE EVENTS
If you are looking for online events to attend, black history month has a variety of online events to suit you. Events include a healing circle for black muslim women. The event is a safe space for black muslim women to unite and feel truly safe to express their cultural and spiritual narratives. Described as a ‘compassionate, non-judgemental and non-directive environment that will meet the specific needs and experiences of the Black Muslim female identity’ this online event is an accessible and safe space for black muslim women to heal from trauma and help each other through the racial prejudice they experience.
They are also running workshops for people to build antiracism into their brand. Each workshop will start with a talk from a anti-racist expert explaining what it looks like to make long term change. Following this Collette Philip, Founder of Brand by Me, will interview brand leaders on how they are making anti-racism part of their brand. It will give business owners the chance to learn what is and isn’t working in terms of integrating antiracism into society, how to hold themselves and their brand accountable, and how to overcome procrastination and focus on making their business antiracist.
Despite the fact we have a very long way to go, society has become more aware of Black History Month. Brands have begun to use their voice and platform to highlight untold stories from black communities, or design bespoke collections embodying black culture and history.
Gymshark is teaming up with Obsidianworks to shed light on inspiring stories from black leaders who are uplifting disadvantaged communities. The fitness brand and Obsidianworks have created a series of video clips telling the success story of multiple founders, including: Jason Wilson (founder of Detroit-based nonprofit The Yunion), Mel Douglas (founder of wellness-driven Black Womens Yoga Collective) and Wesley Hamilton (founder of Disabled But Not Really, inclusive fitness training provider)
Each clip reveals the founder’s story and explains how they are helping deprived communities, and what message they wish to impart on the world. Jason Wilson’s video posits the idea that men should be encouraged to process their emotions, rather than bottle them up as he was taught. Men deserve to be able to feel emotions in order to grow as people and overcome trauma. Wilson believes boys need to experience more love than discipline when they grow up. He claims it will help them get in touch with their emotional side and live a happy and healthy life-style. His organisation offers martial arts, meditation, and Emotional Stability Training. Since founding The Yunion in 2006, he has been creating a safe space for those who need it for over a decade. Learn more about his story and other black heroes here.
Gymshark’s campaign art has been created by talented black videographers and photographers. Bexx Francois as the videographer and Justin “Jay3” Jerrod as the photographer. By employing black talent to make their vision come to life, Gymshark ensures black voices and talent are at the forefront of this campaign.
North Face celebrates how black joy has overcome racism and prejudice by partnering with black climbers. They have teamed up with Sophia Danenberg (the first black woman and African American to climb to the top of the world and summit Mt. Everestand) and Phil Henderson (outdoor mentor, pioneering outdoor exploration for future generations).
The climbers have released a collection that celebrates their success. The clothing pieces represent how they have overcome mountains metaphorically and physically.
North Face claims the collection aims to ‘seek solutions in a world where Black people often lack support and representation on and off the mountain.’ There is such little representation of black people in the climbing world, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t made an impact on the climbing scene. Use Black History Month to kickstart your awareness of how institutionalized racism causes us to gloss over black achievements in many different fields.
The collection is made up of hoodies and T Shirts decorated with colourful graphic designs depicting the climbers in their climbing gear up the mountain - celebrating their glory. Those who purchase it will be reminded of the incredible achievements of Sophia Danenberg and Phil Henderson.
UGG has spotlighted four individuals who they believe represent black excellence in fashion. Antoine Gregory, Brandice Daniel, Kai Avent-deLeon, and Imani Ellis are all part of their campaign. The company has included a feature of each person on their website and donated $10,000 to a charity chosen by each figure. Not only are they spreading the word on talented black fashionistas, they are supporting important causes that directly help black communities.
UGG has also partnered with Denim Tears, to produce a new shoe inspired by his great-grandmother Onia’s Black Seminole heritage. The classic shoe features additional embroidery and beading, celebrating the cultural heritage of Denim Tears great-grandmother. The company will donate a further $50,000 to two the Backstreet Cultural Museum and the Guardians Institute. Both organisations prioritize telling the untold stories of black history.
To honor Black History Month, secondhand platform Depop is spotlighting Black-owned shops via Instagram and the app’s explore page. After hand curating a few favorite items from their second-hand closets or personal wardrobes, each highlighted seller chats about style, circularity, and any of their own favorite Black-owned shops on the platform. The initiative gives a spotlight to small businesses and side hustles and in turn funnels new buyers to the hyper-cool and expertly curated shops of young Black creatives. Some featured creatives so far include Adu Dua, Janine Belcon and 1106 Airy.
Use this month as a wake-up call to the white bias of our society. If you are not already, start making an active effort to recognise the lack of representation across society. Educate yourself and your friends, support black creators and businesses, and recognise black achievements. The change needs to happen now.
Florenne Earle Ledger