While many people are saddened about the in-person Black History Month events being canceled this year, they may be missing the fact that some of the biggest Black history events are currently happening, and there is no ticket or special invite needed: the ongoing movements for Black lives. People often pay attention to Black history that is centered on romanticizing the previous Black civil rights movements, but they don’t realize that the contemporary Black Lives Matter protests and other current Black activists are Black history in the making, and they need to be added to the docket when it comes to Black History Month.
While Black History Month events that involve food, singing, and art are widely attended and applauded, few want to stand in line to get in the “good trouble” of protecting Black people. In fact, the movements for Black lives have been the least popular parts of Black culture for American society. People enjoy celebrating Black events, but suddenly vanish when it comes to mourning and defending Black life.
The Black Lives Matter movement is still characterized as a hate group, while the domestic terrorists who attacked the White House are calling themselves “patriots.” Voter suppression against Black voters is still happening today—which is why polling access was so important in Georgia—and Black people are dying right now due to higher rates of COVID-19 and police brutality.
Black History Month is not about enjoying Black culture for a month and then forgetting about it the rest of the year. It must be an investment in saving and protecting Black lives no matter what. This doesn’t necessarily mean marching on the frontlines with BLM; it means helping any and every way possible.
Before heading over to any fun Zoom or socially distanced event, the first places people should virtually visit are the pages of Black activists groups, grassroots movements for Black lives, Black nonprofits, and Black-owned businesses.
There are many Black causes that need donations and support throughout the year, including the Victims Funds that go to the families of those killed due to police brutality, Black LGBTQ+ organizations that need funds to pay for health care, mental health, and other costs, and more. There are many guides for those unsure about where to start, and they all reflect that there is a lot of work to do.
There are also many Black organizations in communities across America that need support.
Many cities have their own Black Lives Matter chapters and very often, their websites will explain specifically what their unique chapter needs help with along with the broader systemic changes that all chapters are fighting for.
For instance, if someone is in the Los Angeles area, they can support BLD PWR, which is a Black-led LA community that partners with BLM and other grassroots activists groups to challenge oppression and all of the ways it intersects with gender, the environment, and more. LA activist Kendrick Sampson, who stars in the hit HBO show Insecure by Issa Rae, is one of their leaders who advocates for Black liberation both on and off screen.
There are also many organizations throughout both larger metropolitan areas and larger states, like Chicago, Michigan, Georgia, New York, as well as more in California.
Smaller cities also have numerous opportunities and organizations stepping up to make a change, too.
Charitynavigator.org has compiled an amazing list of charities that advocate for Black community building, health care, and civil rights specifically for those getting started during Black History Month. They also offer suggestions for how people can continue their service for years to come.
It seems there are endless ways to support Black lives when it comes to donations. Whether it’s donating time, monetary funds, resources, or something else, help is always needed.
However, people aren’t exactly lining up, even after the massive calls for industries to promote more Black and brown communities that spawned from the Black Lives Matter movement.
Recently, Home Depot made an announcement on Instagram:
“We want to expand our supplier lineup to better represent our communities and invest in Black-owned businesses. Tap the link in our bio to find out how to become a supplier today. #BlackHistoryMonth.”
In an effort to pay homage to Black History Month and provide more equity as a business, Home Depot decided to take action. Unfortunately, the responses from non-Black commenters were extremely negative. Both white people and people of color are calling Home Depot’s support for Black people “racist.”
This is not the only case of this kind of outrage. People don’t seem to like it when Black History Month is actually used as a window for people to make systemic change, rather than a temporary story post wishing everyone a happy Black History Month.
Last year, popular grocery store company, Sainsbury’s posted on Twitter:
“The ‘safe spaces’ we created in response to the Black Lives Matter movement were online support groups that helped our black colleagues come together, share their experiences and support one another.”
This post was made after their announcement to denounce racism and suggest that anyone that opposes inclusion to shop somewhere else. It was specifically catered to Black History Month, but after the month ended, the company did not waiver.
While there were many supporters of their stance, there was a wave of backlash by those who don’t believe that Black history should be about Black lives.
One person responded by saying,“Yeah we know. In response to BLM propaganda Sainsburys is telling itself, its customers & the 3% of people in the UK who are black, that the white majority is racist. That is a lie and we’re not having it anymore. #BoycottSainsburys #GoWokeGoBroke”
Many white people and some non-Black people of color seem vested in the belief that focusing on Black lives means ignoring the oppressions of other marginalized groups.
The rhetoric that the celebration of Black History Month is synonymous with the special treatment of Black people is anti-Black. It ignores the fact that the United States and all the opportunities that people have in this nation weren’t built on the backs of slaves.
Doing right by Black people by acknowledging the true history of this nation isn’t easy or fun. Just like BLM and other activist groups experience every day, there will be discouragement and violence.
When both large and small businesses step up to utilize Black History Month as a stepping stone for long-term change, there will be backlash.
Until everyone is willing to stir up some trouble for systemic racism and anti-Blackness, they need to stop fetishizing Black music and dance, indulging in Black soul food, sharing Amanda Gorman poetry posts, and reaping the benefits of performative activism and popular trends.
People are saying “Happy Black History Month” without saying “Justice for Breonna Taylor” anymore, without saying “Justice for George Floyd” anymore, without actually recalling that Black lives and their histories are in danger.
While it’s great that Black Lives Matter has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize along with phenomenal leader Stacey Abrams, this still lends no plan or attention to how and when Black lives will holistically matter beyond symbolic gestures. Awards will never be retribution for the dead.
Society wants to celebrate Black culture, but they do not want to endure the emotional labor of continually mourning and defending Black lives every single day.