February marks the beginning of African American History Month, a time dedicated to celebrating the great contributions of African Americans over the course of U.S. history. This important month marks an opportunity to celebrate the incredible role African Americans have played in furthering arts, science, culture, and so much more in our nation.
There are so many ways to celebrate African American History Month, from supporting Black-owned businesses to engaging in conversations focused on social justice and equality with coworkers, employees, and family at home. It is important to not only choose to support Black-owned businesses during African American History Month, but long after February is over as well. Don’t just make this a “moment,” but a lifestyle!
How did African American History Month Originate?
African American History Month originated in 1915 when historian and author Dr. Carter G. Woodson founded the Association for the Study of African American Life and History. By 1926, Dr. Woodson selected a week in February that included both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass’ birthdays. During President Ford’s presidency in 1975, he urged all Americans to recognize the important contributions made by Black citizens for our nation’s culture, helping to further solidify African American History Month. Presidents Carter and Reagan would go on to further the observance of African American History Month until Congress finally passed Public Law 99-244, designating February 1986 as African American History Month.
What are some ways to celebrate African American History Month?
1. Support Black-Owned Businesses
Not only should individuals support Black-owned businesses, but companies and organizations should strive to create partnerships with Black-owned businesses as well. For example, here at Draper and Kramer, we strive to create employment and business opportunities through our real estate developments. In doing so, we always prioritize hiring from within the surrounding community when assembling project teams and partnering with both minority and women-owned businesses throughout the development project’s lifecycle.
When considering how to support Black-owned businesses, both companies and individuals should consider their day-to-day lives. Where do you go to buy coffee in the morning? Which restaurants do you try on the weekends? Where do you buy groceries? Where do you purchase books? Rather than opting for Starbucks or ordering books and other items through Amazon, use the following resources to find Black-owned businesses in your area:
- Support Black Owned: Both a website and mobile app, Support Black Owned includes a directory of Black-owned businesses around the United States. Support Black Owned features a broad range of industries, from beauty to legal to medical services and more.
- EatOkra App: EatOkra is a mobile app featuring over 2,600 Black-owned restaurants, cafes, wineries, bakeries, and food trucks across the U.S. Trying to make dinner plans with friends but unsure where to go? Check out the EatOkra app to find Black-owned restaurants in your area to help guide the way!
- Instagram: Instagram is an excellent resource when searching for Black-owned businesses in your area. When looking for independent Black-owned shops to support, search for hashtags such as #SupportBlackBusiness, #SupportBlackArt, and #ShareBlackStories.
- AALBC: While it is often easy to download books to Audible or Kindle, there are countless Black-owned bookstores around the country that you can support. AALBC includes a map of Black-owned bookstores in every state, making it even easier to find local bookstores in your area.
2. Educate Your Employees and/or Co-Workers
While hosting in-person panel discussions and speaking events is not possible for many companies currently due to COVID, many influential activists, authors, historians, and public speakers are available to have important discussions surrounding race relations, civil rights, and social justice on Zoom and other virtual formats. If you are an employee, consider suggesting an online panel discussion or speaker seminar to your team to help your company think about social justice, discrimination, and other important topics in an engaging, thought-provoking way.
3. Share Information about African American History with Your Family
The focus on social justice throughout 2020 helped spark several important conversations for families at home. It is important to continue having those conversations with children, grandchildren, and other family members in the household to help further the education surrounding African American history. If you have young ones at home, introducing them to books about African American leaders who have helped shape our nation’s history is a great place to start. Here are some great books and series to begin with:
- The “Who Was?…” Series: This series features kid-friendly biographies of notable individuals such as Jackie Robinson, Rosa Parks, Michelle Obama, Louis Armstrong, Harriet Tubman, Martin Luther King, Jr., and more.
- Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History: This book, written by Vashti Harrison, introduces readers to 40 trailblazing women who changed the world, including poet Maya Angelou, politician Shirley Chisholm, mathematician Katherine Johnson, filmmaker Julie Dash, and more.
- Picture Book Biographies: The website What Do We Do All Day? features picture book biographies about powerful African American women, a perfect choice for young children.
4. Visit an African American Museum or Cultural Institution (Virtually or In-Person)
Visiting a museum or cultural institution is one of the best ways to fully immerse yourself into the culture, history, and impact that African Americans have had on U.S. history over the centuries. If you are a Chicago resident, be sure to check out the DuSable Museum of African American History, which focuses on the many achievements and contributions of African Americans. Although the physical museum is temporarily closed due to COVID, they have several insightful virtual events that are currently taking place, focusing on social justice, Black artists, the Bronzeville Film Festival, and more.
Key Takeaways about African American History Month
From supporting Black-owned businesses to having important conversations with your family and friends about the importance of equality, social justice, and diversity, there are so many ways to help celebrate the remarkable impact African Americans have had on our nation.
Here at Draper and Kramer, we are dedicated to promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion in all that we do. To learn more about our commitment to furthering that mission, we invite you to visit our Diversity, Equity & Inclusion page.